Chris Moyles Gets His 360

Radio 1 DJ Chris Moyles makes no secret of the fact that he loves his Xbox and is a big fan of Xbox Live, and during the week he was one of the lucky few to get a pre-release version of the machine, no doubt in the hope that he’ll evangelise it during one of the biggest radio shows in the country. It was quite a funny segment of the show so I grabbed the MP3 of it out of their podcast so that you can download it here – it’s over five minutes long but it’s pretty funny, so give it a listen.

Since I’ve been ripping chunks of audio out of it I should probably point out that you can subscribe to the Best of Moyles podcast here.

Mario Kart DS

I had a chance to play around with a US copy of Mario Kart DS today which was absolutely excellent, and seems to be one of the best handheld games of this generation. My time was spent thrashing around the tracks in various multiplayer modes which impressed me a lot – you get a lot of options for single cart multiplayer and the battle mode is as much fun as I remember it from the N64 version. With the full complement of eight human players I’d imagine that it’s even better, but I still had fun with two people and AI racers making up the numbers. Amusingly, one of the tracks was a giant Nintendo DS that you could tear around on.

Graphically the game is very nice and smooth, and somewhere between the full 3D of the GameCube game and the sprite characters on 3D environments of the N64 game. It’s not incredibly detailed but shows that the DS really does have some graphical horsepower behind it and is more than capable of making a game like this run well. I can’t imagine anyone being disappointed with how it looks.

All that’s fine, but what has most people interested is the online play, and it works great. Setting it up is a cakewalk (annoyingly it only supports WEP encryption so I won’t be playing in my WPA2-encrypted home) and although it took a few minutes to match me up with someone – I assume that would be better at a time when there’s more Americans on as it’s not out anywhere else – when I was actually racing it worked almost completely lag free and brought me right back to the old 4-player MK64 sessions. It was especially impressive that it was running on a system which has kind of added online play as an after-market extra. Hopefully all online DS games keep the same interface.

I’m definitely going to be getting a copy of this on the UK release, and it’s another reason why the DS is starting to leave the PSP in the dust as a games system.

Stick Your USB in My Firewire

This is too funny. As someone who can’t claim to be Sony’s biggest fan I’m sitting back and enjoying them taking flak over news like their whole CD rootkit fiasco and the price fixing allegations, not to mention rumours like the one that the PS3 DRM (admittedly now denied by Sony) wouldn’t allow you to borrow or buy used games, and now you can add another controversy to the list. It’s not as moustache-twiddlingly nefarious as some of the others, but it’s really funny that it happened to them.

According to The Register, anyone who visited the Sony Style website and innocently searching for “USB” would find something more than just the expected USB cables and hubs. They’d also be offered a naked person, legs akimbo, offering the great deal of showing you their something in exchange for a look at your USB and only $9.99. Pretty good deal, I’d say.

King Kong Game Impressions

King Kong

There was a little game from Ubisoft’s Montpellier team back in 2003 called Beyond Good & Evil. It was excellent but thanks to no marketing and an avalanche of new games, only a few people bought it. Luckily one of those few was a guy called Peter Jackson, who just happened to be working on a little trilogy of films called Lord of the Rings at the time, and had also had his fingers burnt by EA on the adaptations of those movies. This perfect storm of events has led here, with Jackson personally selecting the BG&E team to develop the game version of his upcoming King Kong remake, and what a game it is. I played the Xbox version for a good while today, and I’ll probably be grabbing the Xbox 360 version when that comes out.

Taking inspiration from the likes of the Half-Life series and Chronicles of Riddick: Escape from Butcher Bay, the game is essentially a first-person shooter that never leaves the perspective of your character, in this case Jack Driscoll (Adrien Brody’s character), but takes it further by having absolutely no HUD. That means no aiming reticule, no health bar, no ammo meter, no interaction icons, no nothing. You get some prompts to tell you the controls at the beginning, but that’s it. You need to judge aim yourself, you know you’re near death when the screen starts turning red, and you can make Driscoll say how many clips or shells of ammo he has whenever you need to know. Not that you’ll have a lot of ammo, as most of the time you’ll want to rely on spears and bones that you find laying around, saving your guns for the big enemies that you’ll find occasionally. A flaming spear is usually just as good as a few bullets anyway.

Graphically King Kong is stunning, even on the vanilla Xbox. It’s atmospheric and sharp, and everything is detailed yet still manages to run at a very solid framerate. All of the previews are saying that the 360 version looks a lot better, so logic dictates that it should be something gorgeous to look at. I was impressed with the Xbox version’s graphics and certainly had no complaints about it, so this one will be worth admiring.

Overall from what I played this could go up there with the likes of GoldenEye as one of the great movie-to-game adaptations, and should hopefully give Ubisoft Montpellier some much deserved exposure and money. They should only sell King Kong in a bundle with BG&E or something.

Thank You, Google Cache!

I’ll never again hear anything bad said about Google’s attempts to assimilate all of the world’s information into their gaping maw. It might play havoc with anyone who wants to remove information from the Internet permanently, but in this case it’s become a total saviour. When I was lamenting my lost posts it occured to me that they might be cached in Google, and sure enough, there they were, as was the lost version of my Warcraft Diary. Both have now been restored to their former glory and I can make a completely up-to-date backup of the whole thing. This doesn’t make me any less annoyed with my host, but at least I haven’t lost anything.

Database Problems

As you may have noticed, the site was down for a time yesterday and came up briefly with the Halloween in Azeroth post as the latest update. It seems that the server that my site is hosted on needed repairs for some reason, and part of the repair process involved restoring a database backup that was almost a month old. Thankfully I had one that’s only about six days old so losses are minimal, but I’d be mightily pissed off if I didn’t know what I was doing and didn’t have any backups. Thank God for the WordPress database backup plugin is all I’ll say. Get it if you run WP and don’t backup regularly.

I think all that’s missing is one update to my World of Warcraft Diary (not sure if I ever announced that on the main blog, but it’s designed to keep my WOW chatter off the main page…oops), and the only main post that I can remember missing is the one about Xbox 360’s backwards compatibility (impressed that they’re supporting 212 games at launch as I was expecting more like 20; impressed that they’ll all run in HD; baffled why some of the games, especially Sega ones, aren’t there). There might have been more but they’ll have to remain lost to the abyss.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m off to backup my database again.