Saturday, 30 January 2010

Apple iPad revealed

I am a massive fan of Apple. I am writing on my Apple MacBook Pro and I am connected to the web via Internet tethering on my iPhone. Apple seem to have a knack for inventing things that you never knew you needed until they showed them to you. A few years ago who could have predicted that one of their products, the iPod, would become so popular that entire waves of entertainment media would be created in the form of podcasts, a word which has found its way into everyday vocabulary as easily as googling?

With all of this in mind you may understand that I was more than a little bit excited about the much blogged about, rumour shrouded press conference given this week by Steve Jobs, Apple’s genius-in-chief. To be honest, I wasn’t entirely surprised by the look of the new device, I had suspected a large iPhone looking slab and that’s what we saw. What I was surprised at was that I ended up not really wanting one. I usually want any new gadget Apple churns out and the iPad certainly looks sleek and desirable. It has the ability to use iPad specific applications and games as well as those you can use on your iPhone. It has a multi-touch interface to manipulate the screen and any images or web pages. One version of the device comes with a built in 3G device to keep you permanently linked to the Internet.

Apple have even arranged a deal with top book publishers to create a iTunes-like online bookstore from which iPad users can download books to their device and read them on the go; a prettier and more versatile alternative to the Sony Reader. It looks to be a mid-way-point between an iPhone and a laptop and it is for this reason that I do not seem to have the enthusiasm for the iPad that I would expect. As I said, I have an iPhone and a laptop so it would appear that, for me, the iPad would be surplus to requirement. That said, only time will tell and I would not be entirely surprised to find myself in my local Mac store in a few months time, parting company with my hard earned cash after convincing myself that I really don’t now how I could have possibly survived so long without one. We shall see.

Friday, 22 January 2010

War!!!…What is it good for?

Modern Warfare 2, Xbox 360

Activision have done it again. Their incredibly popular Call of Duty series has had another big release in the form of Modern Warfare 2; quite simply the best first person shooter I have ever played. With stunning and immersive graphics, cinema quality sound and all encompassing game-play, it is quite obvious why the game broke all sales records in entertainment media history in its first week of release.

Split into 3 sections, the game has a level of longevity that will make its rivals green with envy. The first is the story mode, which sees you taking on the roll of various characters as you are swept along the twisting rollercoaster of a plot. The story itself is a well-woven tale of international intrigue and political upheaval to rival even the most complex Tom Clancy novel. There are moments of sheer genius and twists that will leave you gasping. And all of this is simply to guide you from one level of gaming glory to another. The missions vary from all out assault against an enemy army to small two man special forces teams stealthily stalking mountainous bases in driving blizzards. From fighting drug gangs in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro to raiding SAM sites on oilrigs off Russia, the game is truly global in scope and infuses gamers with a real sense of the dire importance of successfully achieving the aims of your missions. Not to reveal too much about the story before you play it, I would go as far as to say that it continues from where the last game left off and raises the bar in all areas of the gaming experience.

The second section is special ops; a series of challenges based around the main game, which become available to play once you have successfully completed the main story on any difficulty setting. Hours of extra game-play is to be had here, with achievements galore available for the competitive warrior-at-heart. Some of the missions require two players and can be done co-operatively online or split-screen with friends, a nice little touch to break up the army-of-one mentality that first person shooters often engender.

The final section is the backbone of the series and has kept the previous titles selling for years due to the online community supporting their continued use: multiplayer. Playing against another human in place of computer AI is often a much greater experience and this is definitely the case with Modern Warfare 2. As with Modern Warfare and World at War before it, MW2 has an online army of players and games can be found at any time of the day or night, with often more than 150,000 players online at any one time. Missions vary from old school free-for-all to team death match and ground war, each with their own unique playing styles, aims and objectives. The only thing limiting the life of this game is the life of the platform it’s played on. The earlier games in the series still have a massive online following.

Weapons and tactics have been upgraded with beautifully rendered modern arsenals and the addition of such abilities as throwing knives and even Unmanned Air Vehicles available to the players to unleash hell upon their opponents. In all aspects MW2 is a step up from the already excellent titles preceding it. However, there are some downsides. Those with slower broadband connections will find it difficult to locate a multiplayer game to join, despite seeing 50 plus available games on your screen the system’s tendency to try and match download speeds (no doubt for the good of the gaming experience) can often mean that those players find themselves watching in vain as their system fails time and time again to match them to a game server. My only other major issue with the game is corners. Being a first person shooter, when trying to see or shoot around a corner the player is forced to move their entire body our to get a shot off and will often receive a bullet for their trouble. Games such as Quantum of Solace managed to incorporate effective use of cover and move into its otherwise first person shooter mould and perhaps Activision can look at doing this in future titles to further enhance the realism of the game-play.

Overall Modern Warfare 2 is outstanding, and despite having completed the game I know that its multiplayer and special ops sections will continue to entertain for the foreseeable future. If you own an Xbox then buy this game.

Where in the world is The Gaming Gentleman?

I must relay my most sincere apologies for the length of time between my posts recently. I have been on holiday from work and spending some much needed time with my family, who I rarely get to see, as well as helping my fiancĂ©e plan our forthcoming wedding. For these reasons I have not been typing at my regular rate. That said, I’m back to my normal routine now and have, over the past few weeks, played several new games, read a couple of books and seen a few movies, some of which I’ll be writing about shortly.

For now I’ll just say thank you for your patience and your continued visits (stat counter tells me you are still visiting) and I appreciate your patronage.

Kind regards