RRoDeathed

Well, it had to come I suppose. The Xbox 360 I bought in late February 2007 finally Red Ring of Death’d tonight. Actually, it’s been crashing a bit over the last week, but tonight, it’s totally d.e.a.d. or rather R.R.o.D. (Note the second image is a Flickr! video.)

360 RRoD
360 RRoD

I’ll call them up tonight and see if I can get it replaced before my copy of Dead Space arrives.

Alas, City of Heroes, no more.

Just a short post on this – after three and a half years, I’ve finally unsubscribed to the MMORPG City of Heroes. I used to really enjoy it, but alas, in the last year or two I just don’t have the time and inclination to ‘play’ a grinding level game. I only made it to level 32 with my top character.

Don’t misunderstand; I think it’s a great game, and would encourage people to go and try it out, whether or not you’re of the super hero inclination. It looks nice, plays well, and most of the other people online are fairly civil and accommodating, which is an absolute revelation after years of playing Counter Strike. Part of my problem has always been that being here in Japan, the population density in my evening was low, as the roaring lion’s share of players are in North America and to a lesser extent, Europe. That means that picking up teams or even partners for missions wasn’t easy when I was on, except at the weekend, which has increasingly become family time.

I would say I really enjoyed it for the first two and a bit years, then I would only play a bit now and again, and last month I just decided to cut my losses, or at least my subscription fee, and cancel it. I had about six characters I would play with because I was more into trying out all the different powers than advancing much higher. Ultimately, in 42 months, I burned 544 hours on it. For stats freaks, and as an example, I clocked up only 18 hours in the last year. Still, that’s an absurd amount of time when I think about it.

So that’s where I am. I won’t be going to WoW, or EVE or any other pay as you go game per se, I’ll be spending what little gaming time I have on shorter term completion projects like console games, solo or co-op, and the odd DS game.

Playstation Three (Shhhh)

OK, now despite saying a lot that I wouldn’t get all three consoles for this generation (hey, the Wii is my wife’s!) I decided to get one of the ‘new’ 40GB Playstation 3. It loses PS2 compatibility (and SACD!) but runs cooler, uses a lot less power, and costs quite a bit less too. It’s now the same price as the MS Xbox360 was when I got that back in February. To be honest though, the thing that tipped me over the edge was that I managed to buy it all on points, saved on purchases from Bic Camera over the last two years. Had I not had them, it’d still be on the shelf.

Initial impression: very happy. I bought it with Ratchet and Clank Future, which is a beautiful and fun game. The machine build quality is great – far, far better than the noisy 360, and it has a built in PSU, unlike the enormous gray brick the 360 comes with. The cross bar interface is OK, I personally prefer the MS blades, as I think XMB shows too much info when you’re looking for a specific game function; it seems to need some kind ‘simple’ mode to let people get to the important bits first.

As for controllers, the in-box Sixaxis is rubbish. Really. It’s too light, small, no rumble. R&C tries some six axis mini-games almost apologetically. They’re dull. Compared to the Wii, it’s laughable. Once you try the DualShock 3, things feel better, and the rechargeable-via-USB Sony uses is a nice touch, but overall, the 360 has the best in hand controller of the two.

Overall, the PS3 so far feels like a well made, classy home appliance. The 360 feels like a great games system. The jury is out on a winner, but as I have both, I hope I can get the best of both worlds.

Finished: Bioshock

Well, I finally finished Bioshock; well one of the endings. It was fantastic – well worth the time and effort. I played the nice guy and rescued all the Little Sisters. See? I’m not as bad as people would have you believe.

Despite a small amount of grind, this really is a magnificently designed game, where the story keeps you going as much as the action, and there’s just enough twists to keep each level interesting.

I think this is more of a shooter than the strategy 2K were pushing, but that doesn’t detract from the game itself, which looks beautiful, sounds really quite disturbing, and reminds you that not all first person shooters these days are generic. Each level has a slightly different feel to it, with only one of them – Proving Grounds – to be on rails. The rest you’re pretty free to wander, and splicer spawn points don’t feel too orchestrated. The voice acting is excellent too, and there’s some very nice set pieces, and some nice voice diaries next to set up rooms. The water effects truly were excellent all the way through, but so was the fire, and even the electrical bolts didn’t look too cheesy. This has definitely been the best looking game on the 360 for me so far. Even better than Gears of War.

It’s a shame there wasn’t any multi-player, as the level design is very tight, but since the single player goes on for about twenty hours, you wont regret the outlay in time or money. Maybe the designers felt that multi-player would’ve diluted the mythology of the game itself.

Bye Bye Mr. Bubbles.

Bioshock[ed]

I’ve been playing Bioshock on the 360 for the last few days, and yes, it is ‘just a shooter’, but the style of it is very well executed – an alternate reality 1950s gone amok with DNA splicing at the bottom of the ocean, in Rapture.

Perhaps somewhat steampunk in attitude, mixed with art deco architecture, a hint of Edgar Allen Poe, and some downright eerie sound effects which really add to the tension. In all the graphical blaze which adorns most games now, I suppose I’m in the minority to appreciate the sound of a game, perhaps because I play on headphones; the sound effects, voice acting and everything are superb, better than the graphics for impact.

That said the water effects are very impressive if a little uneven – for every impressive cascading torrent of water down a staircase, there’s a rather dull looking ‘wave’ effect through some of the windows. Anyway, I’m about three hours into it and we’ll see if they’ve managed to keep it as taught till the end. I’m kind of hoping to see Cthulu in the last level as some kind of demented boss, but maybe not.

Parallels may be drawn to games such as FEAR, but this takes it much further than that game, which I found a rather overrated, one trick pony. Still the two games, on the PC at least, share the loathsome SecuROM system of copy protection.

Wired Vapourware Awards 2006

After a poorly written version last year, The Wired Vapourware Awards are back for their 2006 awards, and it’s a much better written piece! After you’ve chuckled over this year’s winners, definitely take a look at the winners of previous years and be amazed how much has never been released, and yes, I’m looking at you Duke Nukem’. The only downer is that some of the projects they slate aren’t really that late, but most have indeed had their development times extended rather a lot.

Japan’s World Cup

As they undoubtedly prepare to come home, a few people will be asking, ‘What went wrong?‘ In a group where on paper they could get through, they finished bottom, didn’t win a game, and earned the distinction of conceding the most goals in the last seven minutes of a world cup game.

They might have gone under the banner of the Samurai Blue (as far as I know, that colour is pure marketing), but their strikers were more like sleeping ninjas – we barely saw them. When they did get in front of goal they were hesitant or obsessed with passing, not seeming to want be the one who missed the shot.

In most games it was left to others, notably Hidetoshi Nakata to drive in shots from a distance, obviously in frustration at his team mates inability to even let loose an attempt on goal. That shouldn’t detract from Tamada’s goal against Brazil, which was a well taken opportunity, but was by far the exception – Nakamura’s goal against Australia was messy at best.

So what will change? Well Zico has left (thankfully) and now Japanese football has to assess where to go with their next manager. I’m hoping for one more like Troussier, than Zico.

Zico’s excuses post game and criticism of his own team didn’t seem to do anything to anything to make people feel better, or even like him, especially when his comments didn’t seem to gel with the opinions of his players, or with anyone who watched the game.

I’ll never forget Nakata and Zico’s completely different press interviews following the Croatia game; Zico claimed the evil TV companies made them play in 30+ degree heat (it’s that in Japan right now), whereas Nakata made the outrageous claim that Japan just didn’t play well enough.

The only good thing is that I wont have to listen to any more absurdly nationalistic NHK commentary by commentators who apparently don’t understand all the rules of football, or at least they need to re-read the rules about offside. The bad thing is that now Japan are out, coverage will drop, and I’ll be back to listening to Radio 5 Live, or pay for cable!

I would say Japan’s best player was again Hide Nakata, and though it pains me to say so, Kawaguchi played far better than I expected, but I would really like to see him learn to catch the ball.

However, for a more informed view of Japan’s 2006 performance, check out the FootallJapan Blog.

Japan 1- 4 Brazil, and out.

So the World Cup 2006 adventure is over for the boys in Samurai Blue.

What can be said?  Well, Tamada scored Japan’s best World Cup goal in the 33rd minute against a fairly lethargic looking Brazilian team.

However, that goal seemed to wake them up, and they spent the rest of the game very artfully putting four goals past Japan. For many though, on the night and certainly in the Japanese media since, the enduring image has been of Japan’s hardest working player, Hidetoshi Nakata, laying down in the centre circle, swapped Brazilian shirt over his eyes presumably crying.

To be honest, you can’t blame him; both in talent and work ethic he’s head and shoulders above his team mates, and this third World Cup may be his last.

Japan 0 – 0 Croatia

Well, after a fairly even game, both team got points. Japan’s hero turned out to be goalkeeper Kawaguchi. I’ve never been much of a fan of his, as he rarely seems to catch the ball, preferring a more dramatic, but less practical punching style.

That said, he did deflect Coatia’s first half penalty and made some decent *catches* during the game. Japan’s best outfielder was probably long serving Hidetoshi Nakata, though his after match interviews seemed to show a lot of his frustration, not helped by his Coach’s insistence that the weather was detracting from Japan’s ability to play – an odd defence given Japan’s usual early summer temperature, and something Nakata denied.

Ultimately though, the nil scoreline reflected both side’s inability to finish, Croatia’s via inaccuracy, Japan’s purely through hesitation, though as with their previous game, they showed they could push the ball around well. Here’s to a good final game against Brazil – if they’re going to go out, go out in style!

MetalGearSolid vs. Space Invaders

We were wandering through Bic Camera at their annex shop in Yurakucho (was Sofmap) and at the entrance was a pretty authentic looking Space Invaders machine, and inside, a life size Solid Snake statue next to the rolling video demo of the Playstation 3 game which has been doing the rounds since E3. Of course, many customers looked, then wandered past to the games section. I wonder how many Japanese will shell out over 60,000yen for the basic Playstation 3?

spaceinvaders

Solid argues for extra loyalty points