Friday, November 28, 2003

Rampant Consumerism



Which brand of consumer are you?



Cutting-edge eclectic


Undercover is your mantra. If more than 50 people know about a brand, it's not worth having. Setting trends is what you do; you work in fashion, film or media. You shop in small boutiques - in Notting Hill, or in retro shops and markets. Ten years ago you would have gone to Ibiza, now it's Reykjavik, Tallinn or Krakow. You're into technology - digital cameras, the latest MP3 players, mini-discs, decks and so on are crucial kit for expressing your creativity.


Yeah, baby.

The Champ Man you always wanted



I spent some serious quality time with the Championship Manager 03/04 demo last night, and I'm impressed. This is how a football management game should be. All the previous versions of Championship Manager have reduced me to the state of the proverbial football manager chucking teacups at the players in the dressing room. This, however is more of an inspiring psychological analysis from Arsene Wenger.


Now, with the 2D engine, you can see tactical changes having an effect - and more importantly, that they *do* have an effect, unlike the pre-CM4 versions. The media feedback options are an excellent touch, as are the board and fan confidence updates. With all the CM4 bugs ironed out, this is pretty much an essential purchase for any football fan. With KOTOR being delayed, I was seriously tempted to pick it up at lunch today, but a quick look at my bank balance killed that impulse pretty much instantly.


It's going to have to wait until after I get paid - and what with KOTOR and Hordes Of The Underdark being released next friday, it might have to wait until after Christmas, but it's a fairly certain impending purchase, I think. There are good gaming times ahead, methinks.

Thursday, November 27, 2003

The Judgment Of Mad Iain



I decided not to bother with the Invisible War demo last night. It wasn't just that I couldn't be bothered with cracking out the laptop and doing the file transfer, Fleur's been wanting to get early nights so I only had two hours gaming time, and I figured that wasn't going to be enough to play the demo properly.

I'm half tempted not to play it at all, as I don't really want to spoil the impact of the full game, and I'd rather play a finished product than an unpolished and unrepresentative demo.


So, last night, with my precious 120 minutes of gaming time, I decided to try and finish off Neverwinter Nights. To my great surprise, I did. The whole of Chapter Four only took me two hours. I'm certain that I didn't I didn't play through every little side quest in the final chapter, but at Level 8/9 Fighter/Blackguard, you don't exactly need the extra experience.


The Mad Iain Judgment? The ending was a bit anti-climatic, on the whole. I did like the way Sharwyn pulls you aside as you get into the endgame - "Let's chat a bit" - but the actual end fight with Morag wasn't quite as apocalyptic as the fight with Sarevok at the end of Baldur's Gate, for example. I also was a little disappointed with the way it ends in the actual in game engine. Haedraline ticked me off for being an evil sod, but did I get back to Castle Never for the fanfares from Lord Nasher and a congratulatory snog with Sharwyn or Aribeth? (who I'd managed to save from her vengeful path of self-destruction)


No. Bang! Uber-ambiguous Cutscene. Not particularly impressive. Still, at least I managed to complete it, which is more than I've ever managed with Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II. Overall, it's a very good game - it doesn't stray too far from AD&D staples, but that's not too much of A Bad Thing, if you never get the time or the opportunity to play Pen 'n' Paper AD&D. The upcoming Hordes Of The Underdark expansion pack should add a bit more longevity, and the extra tilesets, character customisations, etc, should really allow people to start to do something special with the Aurora SDK, as finding decent mods for NWN has been pretty hard so far. I'm tempted to try and write one myself, but I'm not sure I've got enough time to invest. With the gold edition being £30, it's a good investment for 80 odd hours of action - and that's if you only play through it once.


Finally, a totally games unrelated Judgment.


There's a guy at work who has a blue SMART car, one of these tiny super-mini Mercedes A-class cars. If that in itself wasn't bad enough, he's stuck "2 Fast 2 Furious" stickers in the windows, and put two huge silver stripes down the centre of the bodywork.


PAINTING YOUR CAR BLUE, STICKING TACKY DECALS TO THE WINDOWS AND THEN PUTTING SILVER STRIPES DOWN IT *WON'T* MAKE YOUR FUCKING SMART CAR LOOK LIKE A DODGE FUCKING VIPER!!


Honestly. Who on Earth does he think he's trying to kid?

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

Uncultured heathens



US Tourists want to "hunt Haggis".

Demos



I haven't waded into the Deus Ex: Invisible War demo debate yet purely on the grounds that I still haven't played it. I was going to play it last night, but I couldn't be bothered burning the zip file to disk and porting it over from my work laptop to my games rig. This was mainly because there were a handful of demos I wanted to try off the new PCG cover DVD;


Battle Engine Aquilia: My, this is pretty, oh so pretty. Pretty vacuous, unfortunately. It's absolutely gorgeous to look at - nothing short of jaw-droppingly stunning, but there's nothing at all to blog about the actual game itself. Just like the X-Box version then.


Pro Evolution Soccer 3: I kept hearing about how good this is, so I thought I had to try it. Now, I've never really been into football games (beyond my masochistic relationship with Championship Manager) primarily because I've never had a decent gamepad to play them on. But now I do, so I thought I'd give it a go. And it's good. I got painfully whipped at the standard difficulty level, though I suppose this is mainly due to not having played this kind of game in years. With a fairly feature locked demo, and no manual, you can't really discover the true depth of the game, but the actual control method and playing experience seem solid enough. I don't think I'd actually fork out £30 for it, but if the genre was more my thing, I seems like a decent enough purchase. My only complaint is that the controller setup options and menus are clearly designed to cater for a PS2, and absolutely no effort has been made to make them more PC friendly, which is disappointing. Oh, and it's horribly unrealistic. Emile Heskey scoring a hat-trick against Germany? Give over.


Need For Speed: Underground: 2 Fast? 2 Furious? Almost. Here again, loads of features have been locked out of the demo, but what it does give you (a single circuit track and a single drag strip) are nice taster levels. The gamepad rumble support is good - and annoyed Fleur immensely "it sounds like a baby's rattle" - the music is predictably dreadful and the graphics are brilliantly shiny. I have slight reservations about the actual handling of the car it gives you in the demo - the handling physics seems a little off and the turn rate seems a little inconsistent, with the odd instance of inexplicable understeer. However, it is nice to see the AI drivers make mistakes too. I do like my driving games, and this is a possible purchase, probably not at full price, but certainly a £20 tempter. The Underground career mode in the full version sounds much more rewarding than the standard arcade racing levels the demo lets you try.


Now I have these out of the way, I'll probably try Invisible War tonight, now that I have an extra week to complete NWN, thanks to the Atari marketting men. *spits*


[Edit:] Of course, KOTOR is being published by Activision, not Atari - *slaps self* - I daresay Bioware aren't too happy about KOTOR shipping on the same weekend as Hordes Of The Underdark.


Await The Judgment Of Mad Iain tomorrow.

Speaking of conspiracies



KOTOR has slipped a week. Bloody marketting men. I bet they just want to catch the first flush of the Christmas rush.


*sighs*


Only NINE days to go.

Conspiracy



The furore over the Deus Ex: Invisible War demo has reached such levels that we've now got to the conspiracy satire stage. It's very funny, and perhaps has a slight ring of truth to it.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

Absolute Power



I was distracted by the TV as anticipated last night, so I didn't get to try out the Deus Ex: Invisible War demo, but I did get to have a play about with the Championship Manager 03/04 demo whilst I was watching Room 101 and Absolute Power. I don't know how many of you watch the latter of these comedies, but I've enjoyed it so far - it's not a huge laugh out loud comedy, but it's very clever and cutting. It's worth watching for Stephen Fry and John Bird alone.


The Champ Man demo was good - it seemed to be everything the CM4 demo was, but without the crippling bugs and with a few extra features. Very tempting, but for £30? I don't think so - maybe if I see it for £20. I got the demo itself off the coverdisk of the Christmas edition of PCG, which dropped through my letterbox unexpectedly yesterday. I noticed an interesting thing in the contributors column on the Editorial page - State's very own Tim Edwards is now a PCG Staff Writer. You kept that quiet, didn't you Tim? Well done, old boy. KOTOR also got a rather huge, and predictably gushing review from Ross Atherton, which has whetted my appetite even more to play the game. Only 3 days to go.

Monday, November 24, 2003

Countdown



I'm making a concerted effort to try and complete Neverwinter Nights at the moment, because there's only four days left until KOTOR comes out, and once I have that in my possession, then I'm unlikely to be playing anything else until I've completed it, and I can't guarantee that I'll go back to NWN once I've experienced KOTOR.


I finally gotten into Chapter Four, with my Blackguard character, so I'm in the final stretch now. For all the complaints about how lacklustre the single player campaign is for NWN, I've enjoyed it a lot, and it was nice to spend a fair bit of Chapter Three in the company of dragons. Once you hit Level 15 or 16, things do tend to get ridiculously easy, particularly when you're able to summon Doom Knights or Vrocks and you're running around dual-wielding +3 weaponry. And with Improved Knockdown, even things like Fire Giants don't pose too much of a problem.


Even so, it's good fun, and the engine still looks rather lovely, if you've got the full screen anti-aliasing turned all the way up and you're using the high-res texture packs. With Hordes Of The Underdark just around the corner too, I reckon I'm still going to be playing it for a while, provided KOTOR doesn't seduce me too much.


I received the extra 512MB of memory I won off eBay on Saturday, and installed it before demoing Vice City to Flo and Alex. Oh boy, what a difference it makes. You can see the difference more with Halo, as that runs practically flawlessly now with no frame rate lags, even when there's a few dozen Flood on the screen. I'm hoping the extra RAM will prolong the life of my machine for another year or maybe even another 18 months.


Speaking of Halo - I'm stuck in The Library, predictably, at the tail end of the But I Don't Want To Ride The Elevator level, where you're trapped in a small chamber waiting for the Monitor to open the last security door and about three dozen Flood come at you. I hate the Popcorn Flood with all of my living soul.


But back to Flo and Alex's visit. With the weather this weekend being so bad - two days of constant rain - we did the only decent thing; spent lots of time going shopping, in pubs or otherwise indoors. Rather oddly, I think Alex appreciated Vice City more than Florence, though that's probably more down to the random, wanton violence level more than anything else. I'm not sure if they fully grasped the total freeform nature you can play the game in, but they definitely appreciated it certainly isn't something they should let their kids play. Flo didn't really like Halo much - too sci-fi and shootery for her tastes, I think. However, the real surprise hit was Colin McRae 2 which I've been playing a lot recently to make more use of my gamepad. Both Alex and Flo really liked it - so I decided to give them my old copy of Network Q Rally and the force feedback steering wheel that's been languishing in my boot since I bought it from eBay (and found out that it didn't work on my PC). Since their PC is a lot older than mine, their COM port is far more likely to work with the wheel. If it gets Phillippe (Flo and Alex's eldest son) playing games where you don't actually have to slaughter people for it to be fun, I think they'll be pleased.


I've been monitoring an interesting thread on State today - about the Deus Ex 2 demo. It's getting pretty heated - WHEN FANBOYS ATTACK! - but I'm keeping my counsel until I've actually played the demo. I've downloaded it with my work's prodigious bandwidth and I may get to try it out tonight - provided I'm not too distracted by Room 101 and Absolute Power - Monday's quite a good TV night.

Friday, November 21, 2003

The World George Created



Just look at all those hungry mouths we have to feed


Take a look at all the suffering we breed


So many lonely faces scattered all around

Searching for what they need



Is this the world we created?


What did we do it for?


Is this the world we invaded


Against the law?


So it seems in the end

Is this what we’re all living for today?


The world that we created


You know that every day a helpless child is born


Who needs some loving care inside a happy home

Somewhere a wealthy man is sitting on his throne

Waiting for life to go by



Is this the world we created?

We made it on our own


Is this the world we devastated

Right to the bone?


If there’s a God in the sky looking down

What can he think of what we’ve done


To the world that he created?

Thursday, November 20, 2003

Rage, Actually



I'm moderately miserable at the moment - neither of the teams in the Rugby World Cup semi-finals that I wanted to win actually won, thanks to the gloriously negative tactics employed by England and Australia, who could only manage a single try between them to reach the final, and will probably play out a grinding snore-a-thon on Saturday morning. Which I'll still get up to watch, natch, because these things only come around every four years.


Work has also had me on the verge of a psychotic episode all week, because I've been working for three weeks on a Delphi change that turned out to be 500% more complex than anticipated, we have no design documentation, and we can't run our application in debug mode, so you can't find where (and why) things are going wrong. I'm having to change tasks, purely to save my sanity so I don't rampage around Farnborough with a chainsaw - though I'm not sure that would be such an abnormal reaction to working in Farnborough for as long as I have.


I was also mightily miffed that extended edition of The Two Towers I was holding out for is retailing for £30. Okay, it's 4 DVDs, but I'm not paying £30 for a DVD, not even for TTT. ASDA are selling it for a more reasonable £25, but do they have a copy? NO. And will GAME price match them if don't have it in stock? NO. Shower of the proverbial parentless progeny.


The one bright spot on the horizon is that Fleur and I are hosting our friends Florence and Alex for the weekend, and Flo is a fellow gamer, so I can demo her a few of my latest titles that I've acquired since they last visited us. Halo, Vice City and Neverwinter Nights are surely going to be on the gaming menu,... as for the food menu, who can say? I've still got to do the shopping.

Friday, November 14, 2003

Junk Mail



Remember how I told you about the Telephone Preference Service? Well, it's been a while now, and I've not had a single cold call. BLISS.


I've just signed up with the Mail Preference Service as well, since I'm getting sick of receiving letters offering me low cost loans to get me in even more debt. Apparently this will take 3-6 months to get a significant impact, though. I've also registered the two most common previous owners I still get mail for (despite them not having lived at the address for well over two years) in the hope I'll stop getting spam mail for them.

Analogue


Fleur was out painting the town rouge with the rest of her Languages Department last night, so I had the opportunity to spend some quality time with a couple of pints of beer, a chinese takeaway (Beef with satay sauce - mmmmm, cow-tastic!) and Vice City.


I'm having to replay the game from scratch, as it appears that it doesn't like using old save games from a previous installation. I'm not sure if this is to do with the time stamp on the files, or the fact the the previous installation was on ME (on a FAT32 file system) whereas it's now on XP (with an NTFS file system).


I'm not overly bothered - it's been a while since I've played the game extensively anyway, and it's hardly a chore playing through such a good game again. Particularly now that I've got my gamepad working - it makes such a difference when driving the vehicles (though I have to switch back to mouse & keyboard when on foot - which is no bad thing). Analogue steering is an absolute godsend, though you're still stuck with a twitchy on-off throttle. I even discovered the way you can shift your weight forward and back on the bikes, which I hadn't found out about with keyboard control. I spent a good 15 minutes driving up and down Ocean Beach pulling wheelies on a Sanchez dirt-bike. I haven't quite mastered the art of the stoppie yet, however.


I also got GTAIII installed, having figured out that like Vice City, it was the fact I'd had previous save games copied over that was preventing the game from running. I'm still not sure about GTAIII. Whilst it's got production values that shame most other titles, when you compare it to Vice City, I find it's seriously wanting - the music's crap, the player character is devoid of any personality at all, and the game just lacks that edge of grandeur that Vice City has. Don't get me wrong, it's a good game, but Vice City is *so* much better. GTAIII is the precocious young child to Vice City's seasoned Master.

War and Peas



It's just released into the public domain that the Nazis wanted to blow up Buckingham Palace with tins of processed peas. There must be something odd in the water over there.

Thursday, November 13, 2003

Pasta



I haven't given you a recipe for a while so here's what I did for dinner last night.



Frankfurter Pasta: Serves Two


200g Tricolor pasta (any shape will do, though the swirl shaped ones are particularly good at holding the sauce)

One large onion, finely diced

Three large flat mushrooms, thickly sliced

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 Ramiro sweet pepper, thinly sliced

1 medium sized piece of broccoli (about 100g) cut into small florets

1 tin of diced tomatoes

Balsamic vinegar

6 frankfurters, cut into half inch pieces

Lots of fresh basil

Salt & pepper (to taste)

Dried oregano

Dried chilli flakes or powder (to taste)

Tomato purée

Parmesan cheese


Fry the onions in olive oil over a high heat in a large saucepan, for several minutes until they turn translucent. Before they start to brown, add the sliced mushrooms, garlic and season with salt and pepper. Once the onions start to brown and the mushrooms start to wilt, add some balsamic vinegar to deglaze the pan. Add the ramiro pepper and the broccoli and allow the vegetables to steam for a couple of minutes. Add the sliced frankfurters, and then add the diced tomatoes.


Turn the heat down to medium, and let the sauce simmer for a few minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the basil, oregano and chilli to the sauce before cooking the pasta according to the instructions. When the pasta is al dente thicken the sauce if necessary with some tomato purée. Drain the pasta, and then add to the pan containing the sauce. Stir the pasta through the sauce, until it is mixed throughly, and then serve immediately, with parmesan cheese, to taste. Recommended beverages for accompanying this dish include chilled mineral water or a hearty red wine, such as a Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon.

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Predestined


I've just pre-ordered Star Wars: Knights Of The Old Republic. Only 16 days to go.

Cheesy Funk



When I was a Leicester University, there was a Cheesy Funk society, dedicated to the best, and worst '70s and '80s music. I only bring this up because I got Vice City working again last night, and this game would be their soundtrack.


It appears that the reason the game wouldn't run properly was because I'd ported over my previous save games from a backup CD to the My Documents directory, so when the game tried to create the Vice City user files directory, it simply bombed out because it couldn't create something that already existed. I'm sure this is probably the same problem I had with GTAIII, too.


So, only the install problems with Operation Flashpoint to solve now.


In the meantime, to salve my soldiering itch, I'm playing Project IGI again. The game suffers a little from the first time through the level being ultra-hard, but once you've figured out how to beat the level, it's a piece of cake on subsequent replays. However, this still doesn't stop it from being very, very good. The weapons are excellently modelled - the Pancor Jackhammer in particular packs a suitably vicious punch. And it's now out for a fiver - well worth the money if you've not played it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2003

Var! Huh! What is it good for? Um, well, declaring variables, actually.



I'm struggling mightily with Delphi at the moment - it's being a right bastard trying to get the design of the form I'm working on right right. So far this task which was scheduled for 4 days work has actually taken me 9 days and with no end in sight. I'd be driving me nuts, but when I see things like this on the web, I know I'm not nearly as mad as I might be. If you ever see me go near a Flash IDE, please, kill me.


Here's some more internet paranoia that's come to my attention. By turns both interesting and amusing.


In the Good News Department, it appears that the Evil Belgians aren't *quite* as evil as they might have been. Only 30% as evil, in fact. On account of our acts of good faith, in removing the article and issuing an apology, they've not quite gone as far as dropping the whole legal action, but agreed for a reduced settlement, asking for "only" 400 Euros, rather than the original 1300 Euros. Which, whilst still a fairly considerable sum of money (around £275) is a lot easier on poor old Danny's pocket - even more so since I started a whip-round thread on State for people to bung him the odd £10-20 to ease his financial pain. After I get paid next month, I'm going to bung him around £30 for a decent bottle of Single Malt to calm his nerves.


I think I'll probably write a letter to PCG and maybe PCF to spread the word, as this kind of thing isn't exactly well known, and deserves to be spread around.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Specially for Daz



Oh, I got Halo working eventually - I had to change the base system resolution and start Halo up in safe mode to con it into working, but it now plays better than it ever did on ME. And the 512MB of RAM I just won on eBay should make it run even *better*.


Now,... if I can only get Operation Flashpoint and Vice City to stop throwing hissy-fits....

Busy busy


Had lots to write about today, as it's mainly been a good day, but I just realised that I can't write up everything after work, as it's Time Commanders day, and I have to leave work on time to make sure I get back home for 6:45. Maybe tomorrow.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Upgrade



You know how everyone says the Windows ME is a piece of shit and how you should upgrade to Windows XP because it's so much better, so much more reliable and so great for driver support and games? Well, I finally took their advice and acquired a copy of Windows XP, XP Service Pack 1, backed up all my data and save games, reformatted the hard drive (in NTFS mode, as everyone says you should) and did a full clean install of XP Pro.


I got all the latest drivers for my GeForce4 Ti4600, my Soundblaster Audigy, plus new drivers for my keyboard and Intellimouse Explorer off the internet at work, burned them to a CD and installed them all from scratch so I have a completely brand new Operating System with no driver clutter at all. A perfect tabula rasa for my gaming enjoyment!


It sounds too good to be true, you think - and you'd be right. Once I finish with all this upgrading and updating around 11pm last night, I naturally want to check it all works, so on goes Halo, installing DirectX 9.0b as we go. It's a brand new game, designed to work with XP and all the latest drivers, and guess what? IT DOESN'T WORK.


AAAAAARRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!


I'm pretty sure it's a graphics card glitch, as the splash screen comes up fine, it tries to go to full screen mode, and then the screen goes black and doesn't update properly - so you get all the sound, and the game is running, but all you see is a black screen. I would install the patch - but the one you download from the support site DOESN'T BLOODY INSTALL PROPERLY and I can't get into the game to update it using the integrated wizard.


RUBBISH.


Gearbox need to be shot, and then trampled and gored by rampaging elephants. They can't convert or optimise for shit.


But hey, at least Jedi Knight works.

Wednesday, November 05, 2003

Arx on a limb


One thing I forgot to mention about Arx Fatalis that really impressed me - when you look down YOU CAN SEE YOUR LEGS! AND THEY MOVE!

Easily pleased - that's me.

Twist



A mammoth blog entry written in front of the Man Utd-Rangers game, so don’t pay any attention to the timestamp.


The second half has just kicked off, and United are already 2-0 up. The first goal by Forlan was stunning. I can’t say I’m a fanatical football fan (after all, I support Leicester City) but it’s been a good game to watch so far, thanks to the ever superb refereeing of Pierluigi Collina. Collina is probably the single most recognisable and respected referee in the game, and he allows the game to flow beautifully. Not only that, he’s so well respected that I haven’t seen a single bad tackle or any chatback over the few decisions he’s had to make. When you watch a game refereed by this guy, you know this is how football is meant to be played. Ooh and Ruud van Nistelroy has just stuck in his second of the night. Hat-trick coming up? I wouldn’t be surprised.


However, when it comes to team sports, the game I most like to watch is rugby union, and on Sunday morning I was treated to a peach of a game – New Zealand vs. Wales.


Now; not many people would’ve given Wales much of a hope, but good grief, for 65 minutes they were right in the game and gave the All Blacks a real run for their money – you’ve got to give some kudos to any team that can put four tries and 37 points on the kiwis. It was real throw-the-ball-about cut and thrust stuff; probably one of the best games of rugby I’ve seen in years. The finishing of the All Blacks was nothing short of awesome – when they ran in their first try after a couple of minutes, you thought it was going to be all one way traffic, but after 60 minutes, both teams had over 30 points on the board and Wales were winning! It was a great game. I can’t wait until the weekend until the quarter finals:


New Zealand vs. South Africa, Australia vs. Scotland, France vs. Ireland and England vs. Wales. That’s some good rugby in store…


Still no word from The Evil Belgians, thanks to the wildcat Royal Mail strikes – such great timing! – so I have no idea whenever EIS still want to sue State, which is worrying with only ten days to go before the action gets filed. I contacted Wayward_Ronin, the chap who got State into this mess, in order to get him to contact their lawyers via e-mail, and he gave me a bit of information that’s provided a bizarre twist to the situation.


Sun Tzu’s Art of War states that you should know your enemy, and in the interests of research, W_R decided to go to the EIS website and get a trial subscription from the publication he took the article from online (Tech Europe), and low and behold, stuck to the front cover was a sheet explaining how EIS were filing for action against OVER FIFTY ORGANISATIONS who had plagiarised their work.


FIFTY ORGANISATIONS! Now that’s what I’d call leaky plumbing. Somehow, I can’t see a company as relatively small as EIS wanting to take over fifty separate companies to court. Not wishing to tempt fate, but that’d be a desperately difficult lawsuit to co-ordinate, and we’re relative small fry – after all, cutting and pasting a single two paragraph article hardly constitutes “systematic plagiarism” as citied in the legal notice. I’m pretty hopeful they’re not going to bother with us now that we’ve gotten rid of the article from the website. But I know I’ll sleep a lot better when I have it in black and white and we can draw a line underneath the whole sorry affair.


I said this was going to be mammoth, didn’t I? And I’ve not even covered what games I’ve been playing lately. Speaking of games – it finished 3-0. It wasn’t much of a spectacle after they got the third goal – the second half of the Lazio-Chelsea game looked like a better game from the highlights. Oh well.


I’ve not been playing too much over the last few days – a smidgeon of Halo; I’ve managed to get past the initial surge of The Flood (see what I did there?) and get out of the complex to try and escape with the group of marines to the LZ – and promptly got killed. So I left that, as The Flood are a truly hateful creation in videogames – I’m not looking forward to The Library at all, and I seriously doubt whenever I’ll be able to look at a brussel sprout in the same way ever again.


I played a bit more UFO: Enemy Unknown over the weekend, and tried out the UFO: Aftermath demo too. I have to say that I much prefer the original. I’m not convinced by the camera in Aftermath at all – and I prefer a strict turn-based format to the tactical combat than the pseudo-real time format in Aftermath – the gameplay doesn’t seem to flow well enough for me, and I can’t abide the stop-start-stop-start; though no doubt my friend Mr Hale will say I’m Mad And Wrong. But I’m used to that.


Having had my fill of FPS and TBS on Saturday, I went on an RPG kick on Sunday after the rugby – going back to Neverwinter Nights with my Blackguard character and making a start on Chapter Three. Blackguards are super – being able to summon Doom Knights is rather fantastic.


I also got around to finally making a proper start on Arx Fatalis. Having made it further than last time I tried it; i.e. actually getting out of my prison cell – I’m pretty impressed, despite the fact that the melee combat system is predictably horrible, as it is with most first person RPG’s, the graphics engine isn’t quite cutting edge, and I’m not overly fond of these classless stat based character systems. However, an RPG lives and dies on its depth and ability to capture the imagination, and here Arx Fatalis delivers.


The interface is quite innovative, there’s a satisfyingly high level of interactivity with the suitably claustrophobic environment, an interesting object and inventory system and at least you’re able to kill rats at Level One. Even the comedy werespiders aren’t too much of a challenge to squish. Goblin Lords, on the other hand, are another matter entirely. I’m slightly disappointed that you’re constrained to a male player character, particularly given that the cover of the game box is adorned provocatively with a scantily clad lady – who - I’m reliably informed by my mate Paul (who reviewed the game for PC Format) - doesn’t (totally) constitute a case of false advertising, but an NPC you meet later in the game. Even so, I’d have liked the option to have been there.


I’ll be spending more time with this one, though. I’m enjoying it so far.