Friday, December 02, 2005

Byte: Gaming as medicine

This cold snap has really played merry havoc with my immune system over the last couple of weeks. I've been suffering from a lingering cold-cum-flu-type-thing that comes and goes in phases of virulence, giving me a range of symptoms from the odd sniffle or cough to chronic fatigue, splitting headaches and the urge to crawl into a warm, dark hole and not come out until summer.

Working from home so much isn't helping, either, since I'm languishing behind a desk all day and not getting any exercise. The upside of that is that I'm never more than three feet away from a roasting radiator, of course, which has its own benefits. The other nice thing is that I can also use my lunch breaks for something a bit more constructive than surfing the web, namely, gaming my woes away.

I've been hankering after a change of pace after all the strategy of the last few months, so I've been replaying Knights of the Old Republic II. I still think it's probably the most disappointing game I've played this year, but it hasn't quite garnered the crushing familiarity that the original has (after umpteen replays), so I plumped for the sequel instead. It has the right ingredients to be a fantastic game, but the slow start, lightsaber deprivation and the horrible, HORRIBLE final chapter sour the game almost completely. Playing as Dark Side has its moments, though I was quite surprised to see that it's harder to get Dark Side Mastery than Light Side. Well, it took me longer, anyway. In KotOR, it was the other way around - it was much harder to achieve Light Side Mastery than Dark.

I think it's a game that might improve the more you replay it, as long as you skip the end sequence on Malachor, where all the promise and intrigue painstakingly built up throughout the game is thrown out of the window to set up a sequel. The chapters on Nar Shaddaa and Dxun/Onderon are my favourite, as they don't exclusively consist of slaughtering your way through NPCs, and the game does have a few interesting things to say (particularly your relationship with Kreia), but it's all rendered rather futile by the fortune cookie ending.

Still, it took my mind off the flu, as did a couple of late night sessions on Project Gotham Racing 2. I nailed three seconds off my Nurburgring time on the opening section which double kinks off the main straight down to the first hairpin (which is deceptively one of the trickiest parts of the lap to drive flat out), only to throw the time away later in the lap, which was most annoying. So I'm still a couple of seconds off the magic 7 minute barrier, but I'm getting there. I think I've got a feel for the quickest line on just about every corner now (all 73 of them!), it's just a matter of stringing them all together in the same lap, which may actually happen in the next century. I've done over 600 miles in that virtual Enzo Ferrari now, and practically all of it is around the 'ring. Give me another 500 miles, and I might just crack it...
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