I like games... and tattoos. Yes, those.

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

GTA V New Trailer - Eeeeeeeeeeeee!

Yes, I might have jumped up and down just a little bit...

New trailer for GTA V showcasing the primary characters.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Watchdogs - new trailer, release date & collectors edition details - Hooray!

Yes, I drool just a little bit every time I see something about this game...

So here is the latest trailer, complete with release date (Nov 22nd 2013), as well as collectors edition details at the end...

FLD Laptop/Tablet Bag Giveaway

A week or so ago I posted about the FLD laptop and tablet bags that have recently hit the local accessory market.

The kind folks at FLD wanted to spread the love and are giving away 3 pretty awesome prizes:

1 13 inch laptop bag

1 15 inch laptop bag

And one tablet bag

All you have to do to win one of these pretty darn awesome bags (and I have one, they really are great quality!) is to

1. LIKE and FOLLOW FLD on Facebook and Twitter.


2. Tell us which one of these products you would like and why.

Competition closes Friday 3 May and winner will be announced Monday 6 May.

Right! Get cracking!

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Rebirth: Thoughts on South Africa's most hyped graphic novel

Yes, I know Rebirth, brainchild of Josh Ryba and Daniel Browde, was released a month or so ago, so I'm a little late to the party here, but I only finished reading Rebirth this morning whilst sitting in bed with my coffee.

With all the hype that has surrounded the production of this graphic novel, at least in the circles I move in anyway, I was expecting the story to blow me away. The concept is a pretty unique one - it combines the supernatural with the South African history that was drummed into us as children, the arrival of Jan van Riebeeck off the Cape of Good Hope.

This combined with the idea that the HIV virus is attacking vampires, is a completely different take on our local history and the socio-economic problems that plague South Africa. Rebirth combines locations as well, and jumps backwards and forwards in time between Jan van Riebeeck's arrival in Cape Town and the present day in Johannesburg.

Unfortunately none of these pretty amazing ideas can save this graphic novel from being forgettable - which make no mistake, saddens me. I tried very hard to like it right from the beginning, but my first impressions after a mere 10 pages were that it was rushed, and the concepts could have been developed further.

Let's begin with the quotes at the front of the book. Like so many works of literature these days, there are quotes from notable figures expressing their admiration for the work. Fair enough. What baffles me however, is the choice of people these quotes are taken from. Ok, not all of them, there are some very relevant quotes, but somehow including Rasty, a (granted well known) tattoo/graffiti artist and Jacques Moolman, leader singer of Shadowclub doesn't bring credibility to your work.

These people are very cool certainly, and I know them, they're interesting, intelligent and funny, however they have absolutely nothing to do with graphic novels, comic books or writing and in my opinion are simply not qualified to be talking about a work of this nature. Lauren Beukes would in my mind have been an excellent choice - she's worked on graphic novels with Bill Willingham and she's one of South Africa's most well known science fiction writers. There are some film makers there that I feel work, as this is a story that could translate well into film, but being more selective in your endorsement choices makes all the difference when trying to recommend your work unless you're merely trying to sell it on celebrity endorsements.

Next I'd like to discuss historical accuracy. I'm going to try and avoid spoilers here, as there is a pretty big one, but if I seem vague at this point know that I'm trying to protect you.

Yes, I know this is a vampire novel, yes I know it's not real. That said, if you're going to bring in historical figures as a major selling point of your story, you'd think that there would be key factors and moments in that persons life that you would need to adhere to in order for it to tie in at least tentatively to the facts as we know them. Rebirth does this in the most cursory of manners.

Maybe it's just me, but surely you should attempt to tie in the historical context in some manner, otherwise there's no real point in having an historical character at all - Jan van Riebeeck could just as easily have been a random settler that came to the Cape aboard one of the boats. Nameless, but more easily assimilated into the story.

The story itself starts off a little clumsily and battles its way through, jumping through time and focusing on a couple of different primary characters. At this stage there is no real indication of what drives the characters. You get hints of their background and motivations, and I would hope that this is something that will develop in Book 2 (is there one? I don't know yet).

My major issue with Book 1 was that by the end of the book I felt the story hadn't really developed very much, which is surprising considering how thick it is. You're halfway through when you realise that the story is really only in its infancy and there is no possible way it will progress much further by the time you're finished.

This is not to say that I didn't enjoy Rebirth, I just feel the storytelling and narrative motivations could have been tighter, the characters could have been more developed, especially Jan van Riebeeck, who I personally would have loved to have seen more of. In all the tweets and comments I saw promoting Rebirth the key selling point was "Jan van Riebeeck as a vampire!" and yet this is such a small part of the story that it's really a let down by the end.

Apart from the writing, the other key focus of any graphic novel is the art style, and this is also something that is inconsistent. At times the characters and environments look beautifully rendered, with crisp lines and at other moments it looks as if two different people have drawn the characters. There are moments where they look incomplete and rushed, the outlines suddenly get thicker and blurry, and the lack of consistency is a little off putting, with characters vacillating between a clean, angular feel and a rounded, smudgy one.

I need to reiterate that it's not that I didn't enjoy Rebirth, but my biggest criticism overall would be that the entire product looks rushed.  I saw so much hype about it in the months leading up to release that although I didn't rush out and buy it immediately, it was high up on my "to read" list.

If I had to recommend it to others I would still have it on that list, perhaps just slightly lower down than it was before.

Rebirth is ambitious, and there are bound to be some teething problems. I'd definitely like to see a follow up, perhaps even more than one, and if you're as hopeful as I am about an original story that is set against the backdrop of places you know and a city you love, then even with the criticism Rebirth should still be in your collection.

See what the authors had to say below:

Thursday, April 18, 2013

FLD - Local laptop/tablet bags you want to invest in...

Want to support good quality local products and help a small business grow? Well, you can't really go wrong with FLD.

Good looking, durable laptops bags and tablet sleeves made in a variety of sizes and colours (the pink is my personal favourite!) that express your personal sense of style while still looking classy.

They're designed to carry all your assorted cables, plus have additional pockets to fit your personal belongings as well and cut down on the number of bags you carry with you.

The company itself is fairly new, and run by two young entrepreneurs who are passionate about technology and looking for an alternative to the imported laptop bags on the market that looked good and protected their equipment adequately against scratches, falls and knocks.

Laptop and tablet bags are already available in selected stores, and sleeves are on their way in coming months.

Watch this space - I'm sure you'll see more of these guys in coming months.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

FIFA 14 New Features

FIFA fans - unite! Top 5 New Features of FIFA 14...

Watch the Feature from IGN below.

Tomb Raider Giveaway - What's In The Box?

A week or so ago I was invited by Devon Stanton, from Megarom Games, one of the biggest gaming distributors in South Africa and most importantly the distributor of the Tomb Raider game, to crack open a very exciting package that arrived at their offices not so long ago. We made the long (10 minute) journey to the NAG Offices in Johannesburg, and cracked open the crate. And filmed it. And discussed it.

Sadly for me I can't keep the amazing things we found in there, but you can! So watch the video, see what exciting bits and pieces can be found inside the Crate of Courage, and enter the competition!

You can enter the competition HERE

Splinter Cell Blacklist - Abilities Trailer

Splinter Cell Fans - here's some Wednesday goodness for you :)

Monday, April 8, 2013

Tomb Raider gets the boot

Reboot that is.

And what a reboot it is. I won't lie, I've been feeling rather disillusioned with Lara in recent years. Along with the hype around her status as a role model for young girls as a strong female protagonist, also circled the controversy around her continually varied cup size and the voyeuristic positioning of the viewer's camera.

I'm over it. I was interested in the topic 5 years ago, but in 2013? I really want to move on to something else.

And is, even though the trailers looked AMAZING, it was with trepidation that I approached Tomb Raider 2013.

This Lara however, is not the Lara of old. First things first, the story is set before she became the tomb raiding, gun toting bad ass that she is in the previous games. This is an origin story, an exploration of the events that made Lara who she is, that hardened her to the adventure game, and that shaped her attitude and will to survive.

This is Lara weak, and vulnerable, and almost anyone who plays this game, male or female will relate to her on so many levels.

Tomb Raider is beautifully cinematic, the character design is expertly handled, the narrative is well thought out and plotted, and the game mechanics handle well. The levels are open ended, but not directionless, which means you're given freedom to explore, in fact you're encouraged to do so, but there is always an underlying sense of urgency that sends you back to the story. The quicktime events, so popular in contemporary games of this genre, are at times annoying, but I can't complain about how they're handled, mine is an irritation born out of a dislike of the mechanism as opposed to shoddy implementation in this case.

I haven't played the multiplayer aspect of this game yet, so at this point in time I'm going to focus simply on the single player campaign.

As a quick rundown, Lara begins her journey as she sets out as part of an expedition on a ship called the Endurance, with the intention of finding the lost kingdom of Yamatai and bringing back some rare artefacts. The island, situated in the Dragon's Triangle, is of course shrouded in mystery, and when the ship the crew are on is struck by a violent storm and they are all marooned on the island, strange events begin to occur.

Of course, they have discovered the lost kingdom they were in search of, and when Lara is separated from the others, she must find her way back to them, and uncover the secrets of the island while negotiating the strange things the island has to offer, including ritual sacrifice, strange carvings and dead bodies that typically turn up all over the place.

Visually this game is gritty and far less stylised than the earlier Lara games. It has a much more realistic feel to it, and this is carried through not only to the visuals, but also to the rather more graphic and real violence in the game. It never comes off as gratuitous or obscene in any way however, but the wounds and accompanying blood are certainly more than we're used to in the Tomb Raider franchise.

In order to become really effective in combat, you need to continually upgrade your weapons and skills, as this is vital in both head on combat situations as well as stealth. Luckily you can often choose how you wish to handle a situation, and going from stealth to aggressive combat in completely down to choice.

We often make the comparison between Uncharted and Tomb Raider, and never has it been more evident. It seems Crystal Dynamics has learned some lessons from Naughty Dog and taken them a step further in their implementation here. I'm finally interested to see what happens next.

A must buy.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Bioshock Infinite Review - Wow!

BioShock Infinite is one of the best games I've played in years.

Yes, I said it.

It's a smorgasbord of dynamic action, breathtaking visuals and engrossing narrative that kept me on the edge of my seat and perpetually wanting more.

I suppose you actually want to know why I think this don't you?

Well let's start with the concept of BioShock. There was a great deal of confusion around this when it was announced that BioShock: Infinite would not be set in the same location as BioShock and BioShock 2, the fictional underwater city of Rapture. Some of the themes and concepts are the same but Infinite is set instead in the floating city of Columbia. The characters and storyline aren't the same, but the idea of BioShock, the parallel multiverse is still evident throughout the game.

The game's creator, Ken Levine, has avoided answering questions about whether or not Rapture and Columbia exist within the same universe, but has discussed the idea of BioShock as a concept joined by the exploration of a fantastical setting and the use of tools and abilities in a creative manner in order to survive.

The BioShock Infinite universe is greatly influenced by events at the turn of the 19th century, and the mood is set not only by the look and feel of this game, but by the ever present soundtrack, which is as haunting and poignant as you would expect from Irrational Games.

The floating city of Columbia, named for the female personification of the United States, is an homage to the 1893 World Fair, which became a symbol of the emerging movement of American Exceptionalism, the proposition that the United States is different to other countries in that its world mission is to spread liberty and democracy. Although this term does not imply superiority, many American conservative writers have promoted it in that sense, and you can see this conservative streak combined with the notion of the "pure American" running through Infinite quite strongly. The Founders are promoting equality for "pure" Americans, and there is an obvious perversion of the concept here that results in the breakaway group, the Vox Populi, who are more concerned with equality for all.

Unlike Rapture, which was developed secretly, Columbia was built and launched in 1901 by the American government under President McKinley's instructions. Meant to symbolise the idea of exceptionalism, on the surface Columbia appeared to be a floating World Fair that could travel the globe. In reality however, it was revealed that it was in fact a well-armed battleship and after being involved in an "international incident", Columbia broke away from the US, and the location of the city was lost.

A civil war broke out as different factions tried to seize control, and at the time of the game's events, only the Founders and Vox Populi remain. In addition to the civil war, Columbia is also being ravaged by tears in the fabric of space-time. You become aware of this when Booker is watching a scene and a strange shimmering effect reveals momentary changes of pictures, banners and people, indicating the presence of a tear.

Now that my tangent has provided you with substantial backstory, lets get down to the characters.

The characters in this game are well developed and with the superb voice acting there is no sense of a flagging performance at any point. You empathise with them, have an interest in their backstory, and are completely invested in their fate throughout the game.

Booker De Witt and Elizabeth are the main characters in this saga. Father Comstock serves as the primary antagonist, a religious fanatic who founded Columbia, and revered as "The Prophet". Comstock claims that Elizabeth is his daughter, born after only seven days in the womb in a miraculous manner to his late wife, the Lady Comstock.

Elizabeth is "The Lamb" who will lead Columbia into the future. Columbia under Comstock's leadership has bred sexist and racist attitudes, with minority groups being subject to all sorts of unlawful practices and torture.

The other character worthy of mention (there are many but a few primary ones that are vital to the story), is Daisy Fitzroy, leader of the Vox Populi. Of African-American descent, Daisy journed to Columbia to start afresh. Unfortunately for her she took a position as the housekeeper in Comstock's mansion, and was pinned as the scapegoat in the murder of Lady Comstock. The Vox Populi harbour a bitter hatred for the Founders, and resort to extreme lengths in attempting to overthrow the ruling class.

Booker is hired to recover Elizabeth from Columbia in exchange for the elimination of a debt. He manages to make his way into Columbia all but unnoticed, until the initials AD are noticed branded on to the back of his hand and he is identified, apparently through prophecy, as the False Shepherd that would bring about Columbia's downfall. After freeing Elizabeth, they must now try to escape, pursued by multiple enemies.

Although the game is still a First Person Shooter, you now control Booker De Witt, a former Pinkerton agent who is sent to Columbia to find Elizabeth, a young woman who has been held captive there for most of her life. Booker rescues Elizabeth and as the two of them attempt to escape they are pursued by warring factions within the city, the Founders, an extremist group of racist white supremacists that are attempting to keep the city for "pure" Americans only, and the Vox Populi, a group of rebels that represent the common people fighting for equality.

Although you control Booker throughout the game, you eventually work with Elizabeth as she harnesses her strange powers to manipulate rifts in the space-time continuum. It might sound like a bunch of sci-fi rubbish when you hear that, but this is so beautifully handled that you'd be hard pressed to find fault in its implementation.

Elizabeth can open rifts and bring in objects from other eras to assist you, aggravating the tears that are destroying Columbia, but assisting greatly in battle. She can also toss you ammunition when you're in a bind at the simple press of a button, and is not only invaluable to the story, but as an AI co-op battle companion.

Similarly to the previous games which employed the use of "plasmids" to grant you special powers, in Infinite you can pick up "vigors" which grant psychokinetic powers such as electricity manipulation, animal control or telekinesis. You require "salt" to use these vigors, which in essence amounts to mana.

Columbia is much more spacious than Rapture, so you'll find yourself fighting hostiles that not only take place on the ground, but also aboard Columbia's Skyline, a roller coaster type system that you can use to traverse the city quickly. You use a tool called a Sky Hook, which is a kind of grappling hook, to attach yourself to hooks strategically placed around the city. These can be used, obviously, to get from place to place fairly quickly, but also to escape from sticky situations when necessary.

The game still has role-playing elements in a similar manner to the previous BioShock games, so the vigors have upgrade paths that can be purchased vending machines.

In addition to being pursued by numerous enemies, Booker and Elizabeth are also chased by Songbird, who has been Elizabeth's guardian. The guardian will periodically try to snatch Elizabeth away from Booker as they attempt their escape.

There are a number of larger mechanical enemies created by the Founders, including the Handymen - robot like monsters with a human heart and head.

Motorized Patriots who will attack with an automatic machine gun, and wear a wax mask of a Founding Father of the United States.

The Boys of Silence are humans who are blind, but locked inside a metal helmet with large ears. The helmet has super-human hearing and acts as Columbia's security system.

Lastly there is the Siren, a mysterious female figure who can revive defeated enemies during combat.

These enemies act as mini-bosses throughout the game and you will need to adjust your tactics accordingly in order to defeat them.

The gameplay is incredibly dynamic in Infinite, and although you have a sense of where enemies are, you need to continually adjust your tactics in order to defeat them. Sometimes annihilating everyone in your path is not the best option, especially since the process of revival is a costly one, granting you extra life but costing you money in the long run.

Visually this game does not disappoint, and the attention to detail is magnificent. Those who have played the first games will recognise the art style, but the music is the thing that gets me every time. Always eerie, always relevant, always beautiful, the music and sound design make this game for me, and I have already decided that I need to get the soundtrack.

I am quite simply, in love with BioShock Infinite. Amazing, beautiful, magnificent in so many ways. This is a must buy and will certainly be a strong candidate for Game of the Year 2013.