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Archive for Joe Martin

Games I Own: Deus Ex 2

Posted on 21st Oct 2009 at 12:46 by Joe Martin with 9 comments

Joe Martin
Deus Ex 2: Invisible War is a game which gets a bad rap whenever you see it discussed among PC gamers, who inevitably love the first game and loathe the sequel. To be honest though, I never thought it was half as bad as anyone was making out. If approached with reasonable rationality and not the more obvious optimism, the game actually held up quite well.

Yes, Invisible War had issues. It obviously suffered from attempts to bring the series to consoles. The tiny, insular and empty levels. The universal ammo system. The constant load times and clunky, overly rounded feel of the engine – these were all issues that dogged the game and deservedly so, but slamming Deus Ex 2 for not living up to the legend of it’s predecessor is easier than fist-fighting with a one-armed toddler.

Instead, I prefer to think of the good things about Deus Ex 2 – the things it did better than the original. Believe me, they’re there.

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I'm Only Stupid Because I Know Too Much

Posted on 8th Oct 2009 at 12:09 by Joe Martin with 17 comments

Joe Martin
I was playing Professor Layton and Pandora’s Box yesterday (in the course of writing the review) when I had a moment of utter brain failure. It’s embarrassing to even admit it, that’s how stupid it was of me.

The question was; if you have a rectangular piece of paper and fold it so that there’s an extra centimetre on one side and then you fold it the other way with a centimetre extra on the other end, then how far in millimetres would it be between the two creases when the paper is unfolded?

It’s a simple, easy question and the game gave me three spaces to write a number into. I quickly scribbled my answer down; 100mm and was told that was incorrect. Baffled, I got a piece of paper out and tried it out – measuring the gap as one centimetre. Again I put my answer in. Again; incorrect. It was only on the third go that I slapped my face and realised that there were only 10 millimetres in a centimetre – not 100. I was being a moron and had been led astray by the fact that the game gave you three spaces to put an answer in, not two. I’m an idiot.

That then got me thinking (as best as I was able anyway) about how my brain is stuffed with useless information that I use everyday and all the actual useful stuff that I never need to know has trickled away over the years. It’s ironic and twisted, but I can get more use out of game memory than I’d ever get from remembering how to do trigonometry properly.

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What Makes You Quit A Multiplayer Game?

Posted on 6th Oct 2009 at 14:24 by Joe Martin with 51 comments

Joe Martin
Those of you who listened to last week’s Gaming Podcast will know that, between the filthy jokes and my off-mike laughing fit, we talked about our lunchtime gaming habits – specifically COD4. We play every lunch time and occasionally after work too, with ‘we’ being most bit-tech, ComputerShopper and Micromart staff.

In the wake of our most recent after-work game an interesting dilemma presented itself though and we schedule our next big match for November 10th. The day that Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 goes on sale. Thus is was asked; do we carry on playing COD4 for the time being, or do we switch over to the sequel?

Strangely enough, only two people said that they wanted to switch to the new game. Many reasons were given – shortage of funds, can’t be bothered to install, PCs that won’t run it, etc. My own reason however was simply that I wasn’t ready to leave COD4 just yet and don’t feel I’ve got everything I can out of it.

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I Have Never Played A Good Star Trek Game

Posted on 29th Sep 2009 at 10:05 by Joe Martin with 42 comments

Joe Martin
I’ve owned a lot of games in my life. I was also a bit of a Trekkie growing up. There have been points in my life where those two facts have overlapped and I’ve owned computer games that are based around Star Trek – but I’ve never played a good Star Trek game, ever. I’m honestly not even sure they exist.

I’ve played a lot of them, from idiotic non-games like The Captain’s Chair which offer a virtual tour of some of the ships in the series, to poorly thought out action games like Hidden Evil. The ones I’ve spent the most time with though are probably A Final Unity and Generations.

Generations is a particular sore spot for me, as I pressured my parents into pre-ordering it for me from America based solely on hype I’d read in a copy of the official Star Trek magazine.

Yes, I was that sad as a teenager. I like to think I’m a lot cooler now though, even if I still can’t grow a beard.

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Games I Own: Dungeon Keeper, Theme Park, Theme Hospital

Posted on 26th Sep 2009 at 11:38 by Joe Martin with 16 comments

Joe Martin
I was never any good at Dungeon Keeper – and when I say ‘not any good’, I really do mean that I was seriously pants at it. Something to do with being only 12 when the game came out and not really being interested in strategy games – which kind of begs the question of why I played it at all.

There are two answers.

Firstly, it wasn’t my game. It was my brothers and, while I can’t remember if it was a present or something he actually bought, I do know it was his. In the days when the family shared just one PC and my brother and I shared every game, it was inevitable that I would play it. Likewise, it was inevitable then when he stopped playing PC games and I moved out that I would steal it from him, along with about ten other games. Sorry, Sam!

Secondly, making people think that they liked strategy games even though they didn’t really was one of the things that made Bullfrog such a successful company.

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I'm an Evil Basterd

Posted on 24th Sep 2009 at 10:16 by Joe Martin with 30 comments

Joe Martin
Those of you who follow the bit-tech blogs and podcasts with anything more than a cursory interest will know that my extra-curricular gaming habits lately have been…focused to say the least. I’ve been playing Baldur’s Gate exclusively, pausing only to rush through Kane and Lynch: Dead Men after a Michael Mann marathon left me wanting a certain type of adventure.

Baldur’s Gate, as I mentioned when I set myself the challenge, is my Everest. It’s the mountain I’m climbing to prove something to myself, namely that I have an attention span longer than – hey look, there’s a squirrel outside!

I’ve not really blogged about my time with the game since then – and for those of you who are curious, I’m still in Baldur’s Gate 1 and have completed all quests in the lower half of the world map. I’m a male, true neutral, half-elf conjurer called Jacob accompanied by Viconia, Imoen, Shar-teel, Jaheira and Khalid. I was tempted to go with a full-on, all woman band of adventurers, but I always had a soft spot for Khalid.

More to the point, I had a really horrible experience with the game yesterday.

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I’m So Sick Of World War II

Posted on 21st Sep 2009 at 11:46 by Joe Martin with 54 comments

Joe Martin
I don’t mean any disrespect by this by the way, but as far as computer and videogames go I have to say, I’m so bloody tired of World War II games!

Don’t get me wrong, they can be great. I thought Call of Duty 2 was a fantastic game, for example and that bit where you’re crawling through that pipe above the heads of Nazi soldiers is cemented into my head as a favourite. But that was five years ago and it feels like we’ve had nothing but re-runs since then. Not just in the FPS genre either, but with RTS’ too.

And they all have similarly bland names as well; Call of Duty, Men of Valour, Company of Heroes, Brothers in Arms, Order of War, Medal of Honour and the blandest of all, Men of War. It really is like the publishers have two wheels of words that they spin, connecting the result with ‘of’.

The frustrating thing is that, judged on their own merits, the games are often quite good. It’s just the quantity of them that I object to, along with the fact that they all re-use the same bland moments of cinema. I’ve stormed Omaha and sought cover in Normandy hedgerows so many times that I can’t visit France for fear that I’d shoot nearby German tourists on sheer reflex. It’s that old disconnect between the enjoyable mechanics of the game and the repetitive visuals. I’m not tired of shooting people, I’m just tired of doing it then and there.

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Games I Own: The Prince of Persia Series

Posted on 15th Sep 2009 at 14:05 by Joe Martin with 11 comments

Joe Martin
The Prince of Persia series – by which I mean the Sands of Time trilogy and not either the older or newer games – are a run of games that I have a serious ambivalence with. Like the Monkey Island games, the Sands of Time saga includes both some of my favourite and some of my most hated games.

The Monkey Island game I hate is Escape from Monkey Island, by the way. That game is about as likable as Satan’s mother in law and just thinking about it makes me angry. Likewise, I hate one of the Prince of Persia games so much that I practice thinking about it in the early morning when I can’t be bothered to get out of bed – I hate it so much it gives me energy.

Let’s start with the good news though – The Sands of Time. The first game in the revitalised trilogy, SoT was the one which had the most input from franchise creator, Jordan Mechner – and it shows. Mechner is a truly interesting guy and is currently publishing his old journals from the time when he developed the older PoP games online, which makes for some good lunchtime reading.

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Games to play with your children

Posted on 3rd Sep 2009 at 15:16 by Joe Martin with 36 comments

Joe Martin
I don’t have children, but I do have a lot of younger siblings and nephews and nieces, and we've played a lot of computer games together. A lot of the experiences we’ve shared have been through the medium of joysticks and mouse clicks.

Looking back on that recently I’ve come to think that parents should definitely play computer games with their kids, even though a lot of parents are of the opinion that "games are bad for you" and "all games are violent". Absolute rubbish, every word of it.

Of course, some games are violent and there’s a huge amount of games out there which aren’t at all suitable for children – but violence, if handled responsibly, isn’t always bad and there are a lot of games that are good for kids. My parents had an inkling of this and I spent a lot of time playing either with my Dad or talking about it with him. It’s something I plan to do with my children too, heaven forbid, and something I reflect on every time I go into a shop and see a parent blindly buying Grand Theft Auto for their seven year old. Grrr.

This isn’t new thinking obviously – any number of child-rearing programs or handbooks will tell you it’s important to get involved and find experiences you can share with your children. The problem though is that if you’re not someone who’s ‘into PCs’ and your kid is then it can be hard going. Thus, here are some recommendations for games that are suitable for most children and which open themselves up to this kind of activity.

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Feedback on Custom PC's new games pages

Posted on 20th Aug 2009 at 08:29 by Joe Martin with 8 comments

Joe Martin
This blogpost was supposed to be about my adventures in Baldur’s Gate as a completionist wizard, but that plan was ruined by the fact that my copy of Throne of Bhaal has yet to arrive because of various mail-related issues and my refusal to start until I’ve got the entire collection. And also you might have noticed I'm in Cologne, Germany for the big GamesCom 2009 show.

So, instead I thought it would be a good chance to get some feedback on a little change I’ve introduced to the latest issue of Custom PC and which, if it goes down well, I’ll keep going. If you’ve got Issue 73 to hand (it's out in the shops today) then you can see what I’m talking about on pages 26 and 27 – the ‘Games Etc’ spread.

Basically, I’ve replaced the usual batch of four or five gaming news items with a hand-picked of really good free games from the last month which we think people will like. There’s some free flash adventure games there, some mods and some downloadable indie games – something for everyone and I’d like to do this every month instead of using that space for gaming news.

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