Sunday, 6 June 2010

Chess is so 15th Century.

Well now hasn't this been forever? Seems like between my exams, my end-of-uni-forever parties and my general incompetence and laziness I have neglected this blog and, ashamedly, both of it's readers. For that I apologise. But rather than say anything else, hows about we just pretend like nothing ever happened and instead concentrates on me. 'Cos if you fancied hearing about somebody else's life you would be on their blog.

Conundrum: I wanna buy a graphics card. Technically, I want a powerful, gaming GPU. But this bothers me.

I don't much care for video games. I live with 5 video games design students and I'm bombarded by computer games all day and every night. The closest thing this flat gets to a social event is us all playing Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 as a clan on Xbox Live. (In other news, I bought a 360)

Now this game, despite what you may have read, is actually awful. I'm not easily offended and I will defend video games to the hilt. To the point where I actually wrote in to complain about the Alan Titchmarsh show featuring a 'debate' on video games. But the game just plain sucks. If I have to sit through one more stupid campaign which is the same as every other campaign ever (and fooshin' IDENTICAL to Bad Company 2). The weapons are samey and so are the characters. A lot of people think it's wrong to criticise something for being unoriginal but I disagree. Replace the ruskies with aliens and the P90 with a MA5B and it's Halo. First-Person Shooters hold no interest for me.

Strategy games though. Oh, the hours spent building whole cities of bases, setting up infrastructures, intricate defences, micro-managing resource gatherers. Now there's a game. Any ape can drag their knuckles down generic alley #1, shoot generic gun #37 and kill generic henchman of evil #456 but not many gamers these days have the patience for a good RTS. This all started when we began playing Warcraft 3 Frozen Throne in our flat. Not the game proper, but the tower defence maps. That's some good fun. There is only 1 good RTS for a console, and Halo Wars was designed for a console, it's slimmed-down, easy to use and it works very well on a 360 it has to be said.

I am ancient enough to have bought Morrowind for my PC. Oblivion never felt the same on the 360. I bet you Fallout 3 is better on the PC than the 360 too.  These games are 100 times more involved than CoD, and this is why I want to get into PC gaming, I think there is more scope and more depth to be had on the pc than on a console. There are also some PC-only titles I quite fancy. Theme Hospital, Theme Park World and Dungeon Keeper are three of my favourite games of all time, not that these titles stretch my current card in the slightest, never mind an upgrade. The new Command and Conquer looks good though, as does Diablo 3.

I don't want to be a pc gamer though. Not just for the reasons mentioned above, but because pc gamers are obnoxious. They blame consoles for holding video games back and many of them prioritise graphics over everything else. Now there are some VERY pretty games out there but let's be honest, only 1 game has ever been remembered for being pretty, and Crysis isn't usually talked about favourably. I wish developers would concentrate on something else for once, I don;t really care if a game looks as good as Metro 2033, I want the story of Half-Life, the suspense of the early Resident Evils, the humour of anything that Bullfrog have ever done, the incredible attention to detail of Homeworld 2. NONE of these games had cutting-edge graphics, but they are some of the best games on the planet in my opinion. Before anyone says anything, I will concede (if that's the right word here) that Homeworld 2 is undeniably beautiful. It's the Susan Coffey of the gaming world. Extremely, enticing sexy yet grown-up and classically pretty enough that your parents would approve. But it didn't require high-end hardware, my integrated 6600 played it fine, at the time. It also scaled back extremely well. Though why exactly this was so never really made much sense to me. What were you people playing it on, a NES?
Consoles are easier, fact. I can buy ANY game for my newly-acquired 360 or any other console I own. OK, you got me, the only consoles I own are a 360 (with one game and no controller), a SNES and a classic GameBoy. But any game will work, perfectly. I do not need to worry whether a part of my system can handle a given game, I just buy it and put it in. No so with a PC. My 9500GT is a fantastic card. It runs two big screens extremely well and decodes H.264 on the fly. Totally passive too, so completely silent. But it won't run any games. My awesome pc with a weakling GPU is like having a Gallardo with a Fiesta engine. It's an awesome card, just not a gaming card.

So now the long and short of it is that I'm looking to buy a GTX260. With a bit of luck, this should be able to handle most games at decent settings and framerates. Oh my god, I'm beginning to care about those things. Wish me and my wallet luck.

The best games in the world according to Jack:

1. Pokemon Blue (Gameboy)
Just the best game on the planet. Infinite scope, tactics, trading with friends, replayability for years and years. I remember the day that this arrived in the post and I haven't been able to put it down since. I'm waiting for a proper remake. Red and Yellow belong in 1.1th place.

2. Super Mario World (Super Nintendo Entertainment System (oh yeah, full names tonight!))
If you asked me to describe the perfect game I would say I wanted something incessantly fun, something my mates would think was cool but that my mam could also play. I'd ask for a big game with lots to do, a straightforward campaign but challenges beyond that for the advanced player. I'd ask for a mind-blowing and memorable soundtrack and I'd ask for game that I would still want to play over 18 years after first discovering it. I'd ask for Super Mario World.

3+4. Theme Hospital + Theme Park World (PC)
Couldn't choose between these. Never could. Bullfrog have never made a bad game but these two really stand out. I could wax lyrical all day about the ultra-easy beginnings and the ultra-hard endings, the micro-managing of employees and the funniest games ever made. But all you need to know is that these games will make you smile more than any others. And isn't that why we play games anyway?

5. Homeworld 2 (PC)
Star Trek was boring because there were never any kickass battles. Put all of that right with what I still probably the most stunning game ever made. Hyperspace a Hiigaran Battlecrusier into the middle of an Vagyr fleet and revel in the awesomenitude.

6. Mario Kart: Double Dash! (Gamecube)
Gamecube, Mario Kart, Alcohol, Friends. I admit that the N64 version was better as a game (not to mention my first Mario Kart, I missed the SNES) and the Wii version was better in many technical aspects. But Double Dash is the one I played as late-teen, getting drunk in Paul Phillips' house, swearing and screaming, spilling Jack Daniels and coke all over his big brother's console. It's my Mario Kart

7. KKnD2: Krossfire (PC)
Hilarity, destruction, and the movie where the Juggernaut commander squishes an Evolved trooper, that's quite hilarious. Oh, don't forget the Kamikaze troops either. Did I mention the hilarity?

8. Age Of Empires 2 (PC)
I like strategy games, so I love AofE2. I still get goosebumps whenever I seal of my base with an all-encompassing wall or build a huge navy to have total dominance over the waters.#

9. Star Wars: Republic Commando (Xbox)
I do not like first-person shooters. That said, I adore this game. It's well-thought out. The campaign is the feature, not the multiplayer afterthought. The squad moves fantastically, the 'stack up' in front of a door still makes me weak at the knees and thr game looks gorgeous. The thought that went into the game, things like the windscreen wiper for your HUD and the atmospheric sounds of creatures really boggle the mind. But the best bit about this game are the Deltas themselves. The acting, dialogue and movement are all spot-on, you believe these guys really are bond brothers who have been to hell and back together. Except Sev, he just went.

10. F-Zero (SNES)
This was a 3D (ish) racing game. It was released when I was 1 year old. It is fantastic and has the best video game soundtrack ever devised. It's so beautiful to watch, play and most of all listen to that I just want to lick it, caress it and dribble it into my ears at the same time.

11. Twisted Metal III (Playstation)
Cool cars, kick-ass weapons, arcade-style play and some mean bosses. What's not to love? I named my Mewtwo 'Primevil' after the boss from TM3.

12. Command and Conquer: Red Alert 2 (PC)
Classic. Not pretty like Homeworld and not devil-in-the-details like AofE. But brilliant. That mission where the Navy shows up and starts destroying the enemy buildings around your spy is just as cool today as when I first saw it.

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