The Truman Brewery on Brick Lane, Shoreditch was transformed at the weekend by Disney as part of it’s promotional release for Wreck-It-Ralph. 8-bit Lane allows you take a pixelated walk down computer memory lane to see pieces of gaming architecture reminiscent of Tetris and Pacman. Notable sights include a London taxi, a burst water pipe, pigeons and the world’s first ‘Blippable’ building. Scanning the building poster via the Blippar mobile app activates a Wreck-It-Ralph playable game, transforming the building into an augmented reality level.
My personal favourite was the 8-bit pigeons who happened to be joined by a live one. The lane could have done with a few more pieces dotted around. However, all-in-all it was a great thing to see….and unleash the inner geek!
Wreck-It-Ralph is released in the UK on February 8th 2013.
Agent 47 has emerged from hiding for the first time in 6 years since Blood Money, much to a divided reception. The Hitman games are for those who have a lot of patience and don’t mind the trial-and-error style of playing, with the reward of achieving a ‘silent assassin’ rating. Those elements are still present in Absolution, but the construction of the levels appear almost against that style the games are know for. The long, sprawling and open plan arenas (such as infiltrating a hospital) have been replaced by much shorter and objective-specific levels. The developers must have felt the need to update the formula to keep it fresh and entice a few newcomers. However, the story really is the weakest I have ever seen in a video game. It just doesn’t work; the enemy characters are so vulgar and despicable (which we get, is the idea) you just simply don’t care about watching them. Thankfully, the gameplay itself is enough to forget this and you don’t necessarily even need to follow the story to get an idea of what’s going on. The levels are pretty much self explanatory as they’ve always been; get from ‘A’ to ‘B’ or assassinate ‘X’. Fans will be glad to hear that the stealth element is still very much back with a bang, but some may feel it’s too much like Splinter Cell than before. The in-game achievements increase playability, as there are multiple ways you can kill your target.
Graphically, Hitman Absolution is outstanding (to a similar standard of Rocksteady’s Arkham City). The moody film noir locations look stunning with blue and red police sirens diffusing through the heavy rain. Interior locations are grimy and have a high level of detail as do the character models. Agent 47 can interact with pretty much every object lying around. He can throw a wrench to create a distraction or pick up a book and deal some heavy-handed justice to goons. This is one of the many things of Absolution which is darkly enjoyable. This seems to have had a lot more focus on art direction than previous games to create the bleak but rich environments. For example, when Agent 47 takes down a enemy with a gun before he alerts others, a slow motion camera is briefly triggered. The style is as dark as ever, echoing that of Hitman Contracts in many places.
Before playing Absolution, the idea of the new ‘Instinct Mode’ completely threw my interest off this game. However, after playing a few levels on a Professional difficulty (which does not recharge Instinct) and realising there’s no area map available, the Instinct Mode is a good replacement. In previous games you were able to plan a route via the map and see enemy NPCs, but now you have to use Instinct to see barely further than the room behind the wall, which can make for some tense situations. There is a mini-map to show you nearby NPCs, but this doesn’t detail and of the area at all; it’s more like a sonar. Once Instinct is fully depleted on the ‘Professional-Hard’ setting it will add some more once an objective is completed. When it’s at zero you can still see enemies through walls, but the ability to plot their walking path is gone.
Contracts Mode is a new online addition to the series. Players can choose from a selection of online assassination contracts which are based on the single player levels, but the target objectives are different. You can either create your own (in which you must play and succeed in before it being valid to submit to the community) or play a handful of developer created ones. Contracts Mode is a nice addition for those wanting a break from the campaign levels for a while.
Hitman Absolution has turned out to be a great addition to the series, much to the dismay of the action-heavy ‘Nuns, Guns & Agent 47’ trailer to some fans. It’s a different pace to the previous games, but I can assure you that this is still very much a Hitman game. If it weren’t for the really second-rate story and uneven length of a few levels, I’m sure this would be hitting the 5-star mark.
Apple: Steve Jobs + 1
My first ever Apple product was the 3rd generation iPod Nano purchased in 2007 and I was fixated by it’s sheer perfect design. It was slim, light (hardly noticeable in my jacket pocket), the software ran smoothly and transferring songs via iTunes was quick. To this day I’d still prefer that over my iPhone as an mp3 player, but now it’s convenient to have the combination on one device. It was inevitable that when I my iPhone 3G came along in Q4 of 2008, the Nano would unfortunately become redundant. But Steve Jobs talked about in his biography; it’s better to be the one that “cannibalises” your product than someone else.
There’s no question about it; Steve Jobs was Apple. Customers became disciples and the keynote speeches were when he fed the 5000 or healed the blind. Labelled by some as the world’s greatest salesmen, his trademark “insanely cool” technique was to sell a lifestyle rather than a piece of aluminium. But at the core of it there was passion and pride that the public loved. He always strived for the best possible end-user experience rather than the best margins.
After Jobs sadly passed away from neuroendocrine pancreatic cancer in October 2011 in California, his legacy products were the iPhone 4S, iPad 2 and iCloud. The iPhone 4 was a complete redesign of the hardware with it’s retina display, flat back and “gorilla glass” casing, showing that innovation was still prevalent. The 4S remained the same design, but was upgraded internally along with the introduction of the digital personal assistant, Siri. iPad 2 and iCloud also displayed a strong forward-thinking plan for the future at the keynotes.
So can Apple survive post Steve Jobs? Tim Cook, who joined from Compaq, is an excellent supply chain commander and no doubt CEO too. Although what I’m going to say is a purely a PR-orientated statement; there’s no eccentricities to his methods. A strategist on the polar opposite to Jobs’ gut-instinct direction, which is probably a good combination of complimentary qualities to have at the top. Steve Jobs had some strong viewpoints against market research and conceding to market pressures. With the recent November 2012 release of the iPad Mini it seems as if they are taking aim directly at the Amazon Kindle market share, which seems appropriate if they wish to make iBooks the dominant e-book retailer. However, they haven’t re-invented the wheel; they’ve just rehashed the iPad despite their claims. Apple aren’t exactly know for being truly original; they weren’t the first company to produce an mp3 player. They are fantastic in improving something that’s current, and develop it even better as an outsider looking in.
Apple continue to manufacture products to an astonishingly high specification. I sometimes think if not wasn’t for their importance on product design, PDAs would still be bulky and plastic Microsoft phones with buggy software. I’ve recently upgraded to the iPhone 5 from the 4, and the difference in responsiveness and actual weight is phenomenal (without feeling like a fake – the weight still has some value!). iOS is due a uplift after recently celebrating it’s 5th birthday, but how do you change something that actually…..works?
In my humble opinion, Apple are on the decline. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing though. Their markets are just beyond the point of saturation and the company has harvested more than it’s fair share of cash reserves (around $97 billion). They’ve got the resource, now it’s time for Apple to re-arm and re-evaluate strategies. Also, if they’re currently losing market share to Samsung or Google, may be they’ll regain that niche image again and reduce the risk of becoming a modern day IBM/Microsoft (“Big Brother”) from their famous 1984 ad campaign.
Max Payne is back! Older, heavier and with whiskey replacing the blood in his veins. Different times call for different situations, and this is a different Max Payne game. Gone are the snow covered night scenes of New York (well, aside from the flashback levels) and in there place are the sun-drenched favelas of South America. Rockstar have taken over full responsibility from Remedy for Max Payne 3 and there are Remedy-shaped holes where they are sorely missed. Gone are the trademark graphic novel cutscenes and they have been replaced with stylish full-action animations. They do echo the graphic novel panels in fast-cutting transitions, but if it wasn’t for the return of James McCaffrey voicing the titular anti-hero, this game would almost be unrecognisable. Other differences include a cover system and the ability to dual wield any two handheld weapons. Not that any of these changes are a bad thing, of course. (more…)
Video games. They’ll give you square eyes if you play too long. Or, they are a darn sight better entertainment than watching EastEnders or Coronation Street for an adolescent. Aside from the movies, where else can you get immersed in the globe-trotting escapades of a secret agent, race a Ford GT through the streets of San Francisco, or have an entire urban city as your playground? Certainly not in Albert Square.
I’ve chosen to write a small blurb on a selection of games that trigger that sweet smell of birthday and Christmas wonder years nostalgia for me, on the ground-breaking PlayStation 2 console. They remind me of a simpler time; with no rent and bills, no worlds to try and change and no diets to adhere to. A time when, in fact, I should have been taking “study leave” a bit more literal! DISCLAIMER: May trigger some happy memories. (more…)
As far as console exclusives go, Sony’s Playstation 3 had been left short-changed at the start of its product life cycle. The Xbox 360 has timed exclusives on the Call of Duty and Grand Theft Auto franchises’ DLC, plus the hugely successful cash cow that is Halo. Game over wouldn’t you say for competition?
Enter Nathan Drake.
I’m not going to give excuses, editing my first test short with Lightworks and learning the ropes isn’t as breezy as anticipated. I’ve got user guides and YouTube tutorials by users, but it just needs a bit more time. Part of it is because of the frustration of not being able to be up to the standard I was on previous software, but in the long run it’s for the best.
Keep checking back for updates. The dawn is coming…
Max Payne is back! Even though the return of the film noir anti-hero is slightly delayed, I think it’s worth the wait. The series was one of the first games I played with an engaging storyline that compelled you to reach the end. With it’s unique graphic novel cut scenes and intense gun play, this is the return of a gaming icon.