Friday, 28 October 2011

Being a Geek (Is There Life After 30?)

I turn 30 in a few weeks, I'm married and I have a little girl. And it got me thinking about how much of a kid I am in some ways.

I have a massive collection of Toys (most of them are still in the packages, I don't play with them! I'm not a total freak), comics and videogames. Most of my tshirts have superheroes or cult films on them, and I hold my jeans up with a belt adorned by a Super Mario World 'Mushroom'. I don't have much in the way of 'grown-up' clothing. And I can not physically walk passed a comic/toy shop without getting excited and going in, and most visits end with me leaving with something new.

Growing up

It might have been my up-bringing that made me into a bit of a man-child, looking back I don't think it was the most stable. In a way, maybe I went into my own world populated by the Thundercats and the X-Men to escape. That might be thinking too deeply and I was probably just a little nerd, but the thing that made that little nerd stick around was definitely the following...

My mum and dad split up when I was a kid (I'm not gonna get all emo in your face, don't worry), and I lost all of my childhood possessions. I was getting to an age where I told myself they didn't matter anymore, I was in the top year of primary school, with my teens just around the corner, so they didn't matter (they did). And be honest, you might have all those childhood things in a box up in the attic, but you've still got them. And when you have a look through them you get a warm feeling, right? Anyway, I thought I was too old for toys and games and I moved on, I thought being 'grown-up' meant; I didn't play with toys anymore, I started shaving, and I wore cheap deodorant. Later (late teens) I became nostalgic about my childhood, and all the things that I'd lost from that time. So, I started 'collecting' stuff, then ebay came into my life and nostalgia was in full-force, I could actually buy back my childhood!

Now my missus and partner in crime is also a bit of a nerd, most women would have probably made me get rid of such childish ways (and failed), but she kinda embraced the geek, she buys things for the nerd dungeon, our geek-central (bedroom). And we had Mr and Mrs Pacman on our wedding cake, which she made! We also smashed the Locust Horde together (three times)! Videogame fans will understand. And despite all this, turning 30 somehow feels it's embarrassing to be 30 and do these things! Should I sell all my toys and pretend to be a mature adult?

I can't help being excited about the next Mass Effect game, or Batman movie! That will never change, but should I start dressing like a 'grown-up'? How much longer can I rock the Star Wars tees and Mario belt? I guess things like this cross the minds of everyone turning 30; "Am I too old to continue this band that's not going anywhere?", "Am I too old to eat Coco pops?", "Should I really care if the new Avengers film is good or not?" or "Am I too old to pretend to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex?" (never!). I guess I'm just gonna have to grow old disgracefully and get mocked by all of you 'grown-ups'...

Hey you, out there! Yeah you! You are never too old to pretend to be a Tyrannosaurus Rex! Live the dream.

Friday, 21 October 2011

Best Games of 2011 (90% LOADED)

I'm writing this very early on, in terms of the 'gaming year' there's still; Assassin's Creed Revelations, Skyrim, and the latest offerings from Call of Duty and Battlefield to come. 4 of the biggest games of the year no less.

But, I will review my choices at the end of the year. Call of Duty and Assassin's Creed are both gonna have to do something pretty spectacular and new this time to make my top 5 games, another re-hash wont cut it. I only bought the last COD because of the inclusion of Nazi Zombies, unless it's got a co-op campaign I can take it or leave it. And I never got into Oblivion, infact the choppy frame-rate pissed me off and I got bored of it, I liked Fallout though. I still need to play 'Dark Souls' and 'Rage', I'm hearing great things about both of them and they could also make the final list.

Anyway, my list so far looks like this;

5. Bulletstorm

It's obviously by the makers of Gears, and it's a brave attempt at doing an original FPS. The only thing that let it down was the ridiculously short campaign, but the gameplay is unique and innovative enough to make my list. The leash is a cool addition and the points system and destructive environments make it a fun ride!

4. Deus Ex

When it was being raved about as Mass Effect meets Metal Gear Solid meets Half-Life and then I saw the trailer, drawing comparisons to Blade Runner and Ghost in the Shell, the sci-fi nerd in me was a bit excited! It's not quite up there with Mass Effect 2 (my game of the year for last year) and Metal Gear Solid 4 (my game of the year in 2008). I found the controls and movement a little awkward at first, but as I progressed and started to get confident with them and started upgrading my character it won me over.

3. Gears of War 3

It starts slowly, but just gets better and better. More of the same with a few added additions. It's all about the co-op and 'Horde' with Gears, a great finale to the story arc.

2. Portal 2

The most innovative co-op experience I've ever played, and for that alone it almost got my game of the year! The 'tests' are extremely clever in Portal and the added addition of co-op play really takes it to another level. Brilliant and infuriating in equal measures.

1. Batman: Arkham City

Read review in previous post.

Previous years;

1. Mass Effect
2. Vanquish
3. Fable 2
4.Army of Two: 40th Day
5. Halo Reach

1. Batman: Arkham Asylum
2. Resident Evil 5
3. Left 4 Dead 2

1.Metal Gear Solid 4
2.Left 4 Dead
3.Gears of War 2

Batman: Arkham City Review

HOLY BAT SHIT!!! I can not rave about this game enough, all my doubts about it not being able to live up to the pretty much perfect 'Arkham Asylum' have been vanquished by the best game I've played all year!

Ok, yeah, it's pretty obvious I like it. Here's why...

First Impressions

It captures the atmosphere of the original perfectly and picks up pretty much where it left off. It pulls you in at the beginning in a similar way, it's got the same vibe, I felt like I'd never stopped playing it.

One of my worries about the game was the bigger scale, I was worried it would fall into the same open-world territory as games like GTA and become repetitive quickly, losing it's cinematic and driven story. Not to worry though, you can get about the city really well, gliding and grappling from rooftops. Travelling around is smooth sailing, it's actually fun and doesn't become a ball ache like some games of this type!

The presentation is slick and it's got easy to pick-up-and-play gaming mechanics.



It plays exactly like Arkham Asylum, but it's bigger (which is a good thing)! They've added some new gadgets and fighting moves to your arsenal to freshen things up, but the original was perfect anyway. It feels pretty damn ninja throwing smoke pellets and grappling away too! It's got the right balance of stealth, exploration, puzzle solving and hand to hand combat.


Graphics and Sound

The graphics in the first game really stood out for me at the time, and they're still impressive, the murky streets of Arkham really come to life and the character models and animation are as solid as always.

9/10 (for graphics)

Now, the sound design is pretty special! The music and sound effects add a brilliant cinematic feel and atmosphere, the sound is possibly the best I've heard this year. The voice acting is good, a little cheesy in places, but that is to be expected with something like this.

10/10 (for sound)


I actually went back to Arkham Asylum before playing this game and enjoyed it as much a second time around! I think given a year or two, this is deffo a game I would want to re-play again. Then you've also got the challenges, which were an awesome feature on the first game. Fighting a room of goons and going for high-scores is quite addictive, and the scores are online too!

There's a lot of little side missions to do and the Riddler's 'Riddles' are back again, and this time they're a bit trickier. You've also got the ability to play as Catwoman (with the code). And most importantly, for this kind of game it is actually quite big (much longer than the original, which was relatively short).



Rocksteady have built upon what is already (in my opinion) as close to prefect as a game could get. It's as good as a sequel could be really! And they've improved many aspects of the game. A must play! It's very rare that I think a game is worth the full £40 purchase, but this is one of them!


Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Best Films of 2011

Nearing the end of the year, I thought I'd list my top films. There's still a few I need to see, but I think this list is quite solid.


In reverse order:

15. X-Men: First Class

What do you do when you've run a blockbuster franchise into the ground? Start again...this is a stylish reinvention of our fave mutants and the best of the years Marvel and DC movies.

14. Everything Must Go

Will Ferrel's shown he's a great drama actor before (Stranger Than Fiction), I loved him in this quirky indie film.

13. Rare Exports

A very different 'horror' take on the Santa mythology. I thought this started to get really good just as it ended, still good enough to make my list.

12. Hanna

This was a big surprise for me, it's quite weird and cerebral with moments of quiet drama, it's not your usual action film. There's plot holes in there, but one of the most enjoyable action films of the year.

11. Source Code

An intelligent blockbuster action sci-fi from Duncan Jones (director of the brilliant debut feature 'Moon')

10. Arrietty

Ghibli does it again! Charming animation, with scenes of cinematic brilliance that are simply breathtaking.

9. Warrior

What's that? A powerful drama that's about MMA? YEAH! A little cliched in places, but brilliant acting from the main cast and some exhilerating action make for a great movie!

8. Super

It's much more than just a Kick-Ass clone, it's not really that much like it, in tone anyway. A very weird, dark and quirky alternative.

7. Hesher

An absolutely original, cool, emotional, funny and brilliant little gem! And a Superb cast!

6. Planet of the Apes

This surprised and impressed me, they actually pulled off a great prequel!

5. 13 Assassins

Takashi Miike's samurai film is truly awesome, the 45 minute action finale is stunning!

4. Super 8

Good old fashioned Summer popcorn flick!

3. Submarine

Great debut! A quirky British coming of age film, very funny.

2. Drive

Coolest film of the year, stylish, visceral and a cool soundtrack. I think this will become a timeless classic!

1. I Saw The Devil

A massively original and inventive thriller. This is destined to be (badly) re-made by Hollywood.

So, I Finally Watched Avatar...

Yeah, I took the plunge. It's only been 2 years! I avoided it on the initial release for a few reasons, mainly all the hype. Hype often puts me off a film, that combined with the fact Cameron's last film was the bloated and equally 'hyped' Titanic didn't put it to the top of my must see pile.

Now I've seen it, has it changed my mind?

Despite all the hype I had considerably low expectations for this film, and it pains me to say this, but I found myself enjoying it! Mainly because of all the eye candy, I watched it on bluray and the film is quite incredible visually. Scene after scene impressed and wowed me, on an aesthetic level anyway, and this was before I'd even been taken away to the forests of 'Pandora'.

One of the other things that put me off it originally was the art design of the 'Na'vi', I thought they looked cheesy, and all the spiritual, connected to nature shit that comes with them is a bit cringe worthy. But, somehow the film immersed me in its world, and it got me caring about them. I also found the lead female character Neytiri (played brilliantly by Zoe Saldana) strangely attractive!

I'm not the biggest fan of Cameron, I prefer Ridley Scott's Alien over Cameron's Aliens and I still think his best work is the original Terminator. And I absolutely hate Titanic! I have to give him credit for one thing though, he can direct action with the very best, Avatar is more like a thrill ride than a film.

Now, the story isn't exactly original, it begs, borrows, steals and blatantly rips off a lot of other ideas! But a very famous person once said; 'good artists borrow, great artists steal', I wouldn't call this a work of art, but it is damn impressive visually. Flaws and fluffy plot aside, this is a technical achievement, in the forests of Pandora I was completely spirited away.

There was a ton of films that I thought were better than Avatar in 2009 (Moon, District 9, Watchmen, Zombieland and Inglorious Basterds to name a few). Not quite as good as the hype, but I did enjoy it all the same.


Friday, 7 October 2011

Top 10 Badass Videogame Characters

Kick-Ass videogames need characters who can, urm, well, kick-ass!

Obviously this is my own personal list, not everyone's favourite bad-ass will make the cut! Leave a comment with who you'd have. I've tried to avoid characters that are more known for their comics or films (i.e Batman).

In reverse order;

10. Dante - Devil May Cry

He's part Devil and slays Demonic beasties for a living! And he somehow makes that gothic-red leather shit look cool.

9. Jack - Mass Effect 2

I could have gone for Commander Shepard, that would have been the obvious choice. But, Jack just OOZES bad-ass! A dangerous criminal locked away in a space prison, with her shaved head and tattoos, not to mention her powerful biotic powers! She would have brutal animal sex with you! And then probably eat you afterwards.

8. Kazuya Mishima - Tekken series

Kazuya is pretty bad-ass; he's survived being dropped from a mountain! And was once thrown into a volcano! WTF!? He's beaten on his old man and even his own son! And he's got the 'devil gene'...

7. Sam Gideon - Vanquish

From massively underrated shooter Vanquish, Sam slides across the screen at break-neck speeds wearing a super cool mech suit. He drop-kicks robots in the face!

6. E. Honda - Street Fighter series

Ryu may be the face of classic beat em' up 'Street Fighter', but a 300 pound Sumo wrestler bitch-slapping his enemies one hundred times a second is way more bad-ass!

5. Starkiller - Star Wars The Force Unleashed

Darth Vader's secret apprentice and hunter of the remaining few Jedi after order 66. Starkiller's skills with the force and a lightsabre make even the best of Jedi look like Jar Jar Stinks.

4. Marcus Fenix - Gears of War

Cole Train's got more beef, but Fenix is way more bad-ass. Stomping on the Locust Horde is like playing a round of golf for this dude.

3. Sephiroth - Final Fantasy 7

He looks like a Goth girl, but he would still cut you in half and then set you on fire. The quintessential RPG baddie!

2. Master Chief - Halo

The Halo fanboy in me couldn't leave the big chief out of this list. It's MASTER CHIEF! He's a 7 foot tall one man army. He teabags his enemies too, smooth.

1. Solid Snake - Metal Gear Solid

Solid Snake. Nuff said!

...ok then, he single-handedly took on a tank and won! He's knacked up a vampire, a cyborg ninja, various mechs, and even his Dad! He's the epitome of bad-ass! And in MGS4 he's got a moustashe! Win


Saturday, 1 October 2011

Knightcon Movie Exhibition at Xscape.

Knightcon was a free event at Xscape in Castleford, it just happened to be on one of the hottest days of the year, a phantom late summer in October! This made for one exceptionally good and geeky day!

I went along with the Family Wall; my wife, little girl Lydia, and brother James, we were also accompanied by our good friend David.

Ecto-1 from Ghostbusters!

It being free and a nice day, the place was ram-packed! I was in full geek-uniform, Stormtrooper playing Space Vaders arcade Tee and Ghostbusters belt (2 different people asked me where I got it from ha)!

David and R2D2!

I almost cried when I saw 2 fully functional R2D2s (wasn't expecting to see them)! I came over all nostalgic and wanted to run home and watch the Star Wars films on bluray all over again.

"Where we're going we don't need roads!"

There was loads of fan-made cars outside the exhibition and then inside Xscape there was the real McCoy, behind security ropes. Loads of other geeky delights awaited inside (Darth Vader, Stormtroopers, Daleks, R2D2...)

Best. Day. Ever!