During the last month I’ve spent more hours than I care to mention playing Skyrim and as I hurry about on the virtual plane going from one challenge to the next I can’t say I’ve stopped and taken a moment out to think about just how hard it would’ve been to create a sword in medieval or viking times. This guy is showing how long it takes to make a sword even with all the modern tech:

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Sleeping Dogs: a review

I just finished the computer game, Sleeping Dogs, which I played on PS3. It’s an open world game, which means there are a set of tasks to complete but you can also just cruise around the constructed environment. This game is fairly heavily inspired by the Grand Theft Auto franchise. It’s set in Hong Kong and so, also riffs off  Hong Kong cinema of the martial arts and cops n robbers kinds.

The story line was pretty good. It’s about an undercover cop who infiltrates the HK triads. At times we wonder where his loyalties lay and that’s what makes it good. I haven’t watched that film _Infernal Affairs_ for a few years but I suspect it’s a bit similar to that.

The thing that sets it apart is its detailed hand-to-hand combat system. The driving around is also adequate but not quite in the same league as GTA4. There’s some good music on the in-car radio including some new stuff that I got liking.

Almost any song that has some robot voice in I’ll end up saying to myself, hey I like that.

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The bass sound is also subtly unique. It makes me want to get a really good quality pair of headphones and work on creating some deep deep beatz that no one will hear.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/8031879948/” title=”Untitled by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm9.staticflickr.com/8170/8031879948_b51499bd4b.jpg” width=”500″ height=”374″ alt=”Untitled”></a>

I do vaguely remember seeing _Enter The Dragon_ and its final sequence and not thinking much other than wow Bruce Lee is awesome. But when you see some normal dude getting out of a Lexus wearing yellow sneakers and full-body yellow lycra you tend to take note. Here, Wie Shen, our protagonist gives the proverbial nod to Bruce Lee. [Sportscasters, please stop abusing the word protgonists. They are just sports players, not characters in some story.]

Mafia 2

This is a game I’ve been wasting a bit of time on recently. It’s set in the post-war ’40s and early ’50s. It’s 3rd person style and it lends pretty heavily from Grand Theft Auto, and Scorsese’s gangster films. It was made by what I think is a fairly small game studio in eastern Europe. The best thing about it was the voice acting. Here’s one of the cars you can drive – a take-off of a Ford something. You can change the wheels, the paint colours and the license plate. You can’t see it here but the plate I chose for this car is 2*TONE. The cultural references in the game spill right out to the mid-50s eventhough the timeline doesn’t go that far.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/6939959092/” title=”7086016935_0f27b3d73c_o by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7238/6939959092_2b13943a79.jpg” width=”500″ height=”357″ alt=”7086016935_0f27b3d73c_o”></a>

Gran Turismo 5

First impressions are not always the most prominent impression that remains but they are still something. They are first.
Gran turismo 5 is a playstation 3 game.

GT5 is the 5th part of a long running series of games made by a Japanese company. To me its that quirkiness that stands out with a Japanese flavour that blends itself into the game. I mean, kicking off a car racing game with a modern piano number and a detailed series of shots on making steel — it made me chuckle.

You can see it <a href=”http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TWgcO-04Y4g”>here</a>, but skip to the 22 second mark to avoid the rubbish promos.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/5282376629/” title=”OtUiVY9mUVsoookFy4_0 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5206/5282376629_897fd385e2.jpg” width=”500″ height=”281″ alt=”OtUiVY9mUVsoookFy4_0″ /></a>

One of the best features of the game is its visual flashiness. It’s setting a new standard for how much closer inanimate objects, like cars, can look when comparing computer images to the real thing. Above is the groovy little Fiat Lounge.

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I like driving games and this one is quite realistic in the way that it works. From what I’ve read games recently have been criticised for being too easy. The Gran Turismo series tends to run its own race, and so hasn’t dumbed itself down. It’s pretty hard. Directly above and below are shots of the Lambo Murch SuperVeloce, which is very good fun to drive. I call it the beebox and I’m sure that if I could talk to the zombied Sylvia Plath and tell her about it, she’d really dig it.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/5282388551/” title=”W0blW8fRUya4vyEvFs_0 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5283/5282388551_7983f23601_m.jpg” width=”240″ height=”240″ alt=”W0blW8fRUya4vyEvFs_0″ /></a>

The developers have gone to great lengths to include detail on a whole load of the cars (but not all of them, because there’s over 1000 in the game). These pics are taken from a feature in the game where you can stick a car in a specific location like Kyoto or a marketplace in Bern and ‘take photos’ of it. That, plus the driving, appeal to me and all the countless other slackers who’ll never be in a position to own a Lambo — or even a Fiat in my case.

<a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/sunnybreaks/5282379153/” title=”8Xh6tCHviWa4ScaWmG_0 by esquimauxpie, on Flickr”><img src=”http://farm6.static.flickr.com/5289/5282379153_b2f602e626_m.jpg” width=”240″ height=”240″ alt=”8Xh6tCHviWa4ScaWmG_0″ /></a>

grand theft auto 4, opinion on

For better or worse, I did go out and buy a play-station on the weekend. I managed to find an older one that’ll play both PS2 and PS3 games, although it doesn’t seem like it was a very necessary move at this stage because there’s a huge difference in the level of sophistication and therefore enjoyment between the two. I’d just wanted to get a straight racing game, _Grid_ that I’d read good reviews of, but it’d gone out of stock long ago. Instead I bought _Grand Theft Auto IV_. Again, I was actually after GTA 3 because I’d read that Shaun Ryder, formerly of the Happy Mondays, had done a voice in it but it’d sold out years ago.

In Korean shops, being given something for free when you buying something is a good indication that you should’ve haggled. They gave me an XL-sized New York Yankees baseball jersey — very lol-worthy, but I was actually wearing it for fun last night while playing the game. This shopping complex is the closest to the US military base in the middle of Seoul and I bet those d00ds bargain hard as well as wear XL sizes.

And yes this game is highly addictive. Not surprising for someone with an easily unbalanced personality like me. But boy, is it interesting too. The level of detail is mind boggling. Most noticable at first is the audio. There’s 19 ‘radio stations’ each with roughly an hour or an hour and a half of music/talk on them. Each time you get in a car, the radio is set to a random station (which you can switch or turn off completely) that range from electro to hardcore to reggae. Iggy Pop DJs on one of the stations. There’s a lot of high-profile songs which must’ve cost quite a pretty penny to secure the rights to. The ambient techno station has tracks by Jean Michel Jarre, Phillip Glass and Aphex Twin! Bizarre. It’s like they raided my iTunes library.

There are plenty of detailed articles on the plot, like <a href=”http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grand_Theft_Auto_4″>wikipedia</a>, but basically, you play an Eastern European chap with a shady past who apparently has no qualms with stealing cars, running over pedestrians or shooting people. He can indulge in pretty much everything you would get in trouble for. But it basically sticks to the norms that Hollywood goes by; ultra-violence is ok, htero-sex with adults is ok, ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ drug use is ok.

From what I’ve seen so far, the game does work in a linear fashion. For the plot to progress there are tasks you need to complete. You can choose to take on side jobs, which help the character accumulate money, but it’s like treading water. Apparently, at certain places there are choices to be made, like with the first person you are sent to kill, Ivan (the not so terrible) you are given the choice to kill him (I did — pushed him off the fourth storey of a construction site) or have mercy on him and quietly let him go, _a la_ the situation with the hunter and Snow White, from the story <em>Snow White</em>.  I didn’t see that I had a choice.

Most of it looks quite good. The look of the envirnoment changes through the day and follows a steady time-scale moving from day into night and onward. It occasionally rains. As you’d hope, the vehicles move around in a realistic way and some of the ‘cutscenes’ show people moving around in an impressively realistic way. I’ve seen this before: cgi seems to do a really good job of animating the way the human body’s mechanics work but falls down heavily when it comes to the face and facial expression. GTA4 is no exception here.

Cutscene is the term used in reference to the short “watch only” pieces that move the story forward. These appear regularly when you complete a mission or come across a random character. They give the game a movie-like feel.

The clothing the main character wears can be changed. Extra clothing can be bought and mixed. Because it’s on a console, I can’t get screen-shots which is unfortunate. One of the early, easy missions is to go throw a rock through a shop-keeper’s window in order to extract protection money from them. It looks like a ceramics shop run by Korean immigrants and there’s signs in there written in Hangeul but eventhough I’ve living here for five years I still don’t know what they say.

So far, I’m stuck doing shit-kicking jobs like that, which doesn’t really inspire me to become a gangsta in real life. Although I have become a lot more wary of cars mounting the pavement and mowing me down for no reason. In the game, I’m currently stuck and unable to successfully murder (they use watered down, cool expressions like ‘take down’ or ‘waste’) a certain troublesome biker. Who would’ve thought riding a motorcycle at top speed in heacy traffic while trying to aim and fire a shotgun would be so difficult?