October 2004


Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas

Posted on Saturday, 30 October 2004

It's scant hours since the release of the latest in Rockstar North's venerable GTA series and we've been giving the game a good bashing; these are my first impressions.
The last GTA game, Vice City, was itself a dramatic improvement on the preceeding titles and Rockstar have continued the evolution of their beautiful engine with a variety of changes and new features that make the game more engaging and sustainable.
Prime examples of this are the attributes of your character, CJ. As you undertake activities your skill at them improves (so shooting more people improves your aim and opens new combat style movements for gun battles, running more improves your stamina). Overall this seems to make the game far more engaging, although attributes such as hunger are more annoying and it seems to be possible to starve your character to death if you don't buy it a burger every so often.
The map is *huge* and in the same way that Vice City was blatantly Miami, this is blatantly LA, San Francisco, Las Vegas, the Sierra Nevada desert and some of the coastal stuff, plus a bunch of bits that didn't look obviously like anything I know of. Only one corner of the map is unlocked to begin with, but thanks to some sneakiness at the airport we managed to steal a jet and fly over the rest of the map (getting shot down by the Air Force in the process ;) and it is simply stunning. The Vegas stuff looks particularly good, I expect the missions there will be interesting; San Francisco also looked cool although I kept crashing before I could figure out if Alcatraz is there.
As much fun as the missions are, I still like the odd one-man-army style rampage, so it is most helpful that the weapons cheats are the same as in Vice City. The new and vastly improved aiming/targetting system makes taking on multiple characters much easier than before, but when you start gaining weapons skills the speed and accuracy of your character is amazing, he can fell crowds in seconds. A good way to attract the police, but also a good way of taking them out too.
Being able to recruit gang members is cool, although they have an annoying habit of shooting at other gangs at every available opportunity. Getting shot at by rival gangs all over the place is not cool, but it makes it more interesting I suppose ;)
So, if you liked the previous GTA games, I strongly suggest you take a look at San Andreas, it seems like it is the best of the bunch. If you've never played a GTA game and you can safely detach virtual violence from the real thing, pick up a controller and get shooting/stealing/racing/kidnapping/etc.


Team America

Posted on Tuesday, 26 October 2004

Ok ok, so I slightly downloaded a copy of Team America: World Police. Sue me, I'm gonna go pay my dorrah when it comes out in several MONTHS time and buy the DVD ;)
It is extremely childish and stupid, but it was also hilarious. I can see a lot of people aren't going to like it though and quite a few will probably be offended by it.
The puppets have amazing heads, they're really astonishingly good. The bodies are shit, but it looks like they did that deliberately to make the puppets fight/run really stupidly.
Their charaterisation of Kim Jong Il is absolutely fantastic and I found myself laughing at almost everything he said; Some of the Team America characters were quite annoying though, so it wasn't perfect by any means.
As my flatmate pointed out, they didn't do enough work on the satire really. I'd still recommend it if you're a Trey and Matt fan.


Ubuntu initial impressions

I've been running Ubuntu since a week or so before the launch and so far I'm quite happy with it. It feels mostly like Debian, which is what I was running before I moved to Fedora (for the better 32/64bit compatibility), but has a little more pace to it so far, plus a pretty significant surge of good will and interest.
One thing I am a little disappointed in is that it seems the releases (in this case their first; warty) won't change much beyond security and important bug fixes. They are scheduled for every 6 months though. Personally I still think a rolling-stable approach to the desktop is going to be a killer feature if it happens.
What will set Ubuntu's real course now they have a userbase will be the development of the next release, hoary. There are now quite a lot of people who are want to get involved and want to help. We just have to hope the process shapes itself well and a coherant way of working emerges and works well.
My favorite things about it are really all things about GNOME, especially the automatic digital camera importing. It's fantastic to see the computer become more aware of what is happening to it and behave Correct™ly.
My least favorite is really inherited from Debian - the 32bit compatibility on AMD64 machines isn't great. The good thing is that I can confidently append "yet" to that :)


Hellboy: Directors Cut

Posted on Monday, 18 October 2004

Hellboy is another release in the recent spate of comic inspired movies riding the dollar wave of Spiderman and X-Men. Unlike some of them, it's actually a pretty good film.
It's pretty standard stuff in terms of a comic action movie, but the performances set the film apart from its peers. Ron Perlman is very amusing as the stone-fisted Ted Danson lookalike "Hellboy", John Hurt is convincing as the doddery Professor (classic comic stuff, a father-like figure who provides moral guidance and then dies somehow) and Karl Roden is sinister as Rasputin.
The effects are quite nicely done - some of the transitions from real people to CGI people are a bit obvious, but these things are still remarkably hard to do right when you are looking at them at DVD or higher resolution (case in point, Matrix Reloaded's effects looked seamless at the cinema, a bit noticeable on DVD and they are just plain obvious on the HDTV version - there's simply so much detail that no computer algorithms currently available can trick your brain into believing it is reality). I guess the sound was ok, but none of the soundtrack sticks in my mind, so it can't have been great ;)
If you like action movies and don't mind them going for humour/style over substance, you might like this.