LittleBigPlanet Beta Impressions


I have a feeling that the work that goes into the best user-created levels in LittleBigPlanet will pale in comparison to the sheer force of will required to get a beta key out of Eurogamer as its servers melt. Having done it twice (the disappointing SOCOM and now this), I’m convinced that I’ll be able to build the Sistine Chapel of LBP levels with a few hours of messing around.

Okay, that’s probably optimistic, but I have spent a good amount of time playing with this beta/demo – the lines between those two things are now so blurred that even the executable doesn’t know which it is – and want to weigh in with some impressions.

First off, for all the user-generated stuff in this game, the beta comes with the first handful of levels from the game’s somewhat orthodox ‘campaign’. The levels have all been put together by developers and, as such, are more professional than the giant penis levels that are likely to turn up soon – I’m shocked and strangely disappointed that I haven’t seen any yet – but it’s all done with the same objects and toolsets that you and I will have. Playing through brings unlock after unlock as pretty much anything you come across will shortly be given to you to use in your own creations. And that’s pretty much the point of this mode: to provide ideas and the raw materials for you to run wild. Continue reading LittleBigPlanet Beta Impressions

What’s Happened to Japanese Gaming?

It really wasn’t that long ago that almost every classic game would come out of Japan. I’m looking at my PS2 collection now and I see Devil May Cry, Final Fantasy, Metal Gear Solid, Katamari Damacy, Okami, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, Silent Hill, Street Fighter, Shin Megami Tensei, and so on. Look further back at the PS1 and it was the same, and the Dreamcast was arguably even more weighted towards Japan.

This generation couldn’t have been more different, though. Look at the big new IPs that have been hits, the big games for this Christmas, and even the successful games of generations past that have received next-gen makeovers: almost all Western games.

Lost Planet and Dead Rising hit early on and boded well, but where are their sequels, let alone the second volley from Japan? Devil May Cry 4 and Metal Gear Solid 4 have done well, but DMC4 was still a disappointment by many accounts – including mine – due to its recycled environments and conservative design, and who was it that helped in redesigning many elements of the Metal Gear formula, including its increasingly cumbersome controls? Ryan Payton, its American producer, who has spoken about the Western influence that he fought to bring into the new game. Even the mighty Ninja Gaiden disappointed me on its next-gen debut.

The RPG genre, which has traditionally been dominated by Japan, in very much in transition at the moment as well. Where are the big-budget next-gen JRPGs? With the exception of Lost Odyssey, I’ve found all of them so far to be extremely disappointing; Final Fantasy XIII is at least another year away and Dragon Quest IX is a DS game; the latest MegaTen game, Persona 4, is on the PS2. Meanwhile we have Western devs mixing RPG conventions with their favoured genres, bringing us stuff like Mass Effect. Hell, someone even spilt their RPG in my Call of Duty 4. Continue reading What’s Happened to Japanese Gaming?

Going Off-Road

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I hate driving games, but I love racing games. There’s a subtle yet important difference, and the distinction is enough to make me thoroughly enjoy a Burnout, or even something more real-life like PGR or GRID, while rendering Gran Turismo as gaming kryptonite. The former are all A Few Good Men; the latter is sitting in on a trial for shoplifting.

MotorStorm: Pacific Rift

Off-road racers, though, are a slightly more difficult beast. Even if it contains such vile language as ‘gear ratio’ and tries to make me consider the state of my virtual vehicle’s suspension, thrashing around in the mud is undeniably fun – we’ve all known this since the first time it rained in our back gardens – and the fact that there are very few serious off-road racers gives it a hit ratio with me that’s far above straight racing games. How much fun could a game where your rider breaks his back on a ten-foot fall really be, anyway? If I’m racing along a mountain, I bloody well want to be jumping off it. Continue reading Going Off-Road

That Annual Moan

It’s that time again, where every gaming publication under the sun stops moaning that they’ve had no games all summer and shifts to lamentation about how abused their poor wallet will be over the next few months. As much as I’d like to, I’m not about to buck the trend. I mean, just look at my pre-order list:

  • Banjo-Kazooie: Nuts & Bolts
  • Call of Duty: World at War
  • Fable II
  • Fallout 3
  • Gears of War 2
  • Left 4 Dead
  • LittleBigPlanet
  • Persona 4
  • Prince of Persia

And I’m also probably getting Dead Space, Far Cry 2, Mirror’s Edge, and Resistance 2 either depending on reviews or when I can get them cheaper than the RRP. (Or if someone sends me promo copies – hint, hint.)

No, the situation is no more ridiculous than it was last year… or the year before that… or the year before that. And I have no doubt that the same thing will happen next year. It still means that plenty of great games that could otherwise have been hits – out of my list, my money’s on Prince of Persia and Far Cry 2 being casualties – will be in the bargain bins sooner than the publishers might have hoped. It’s always a shame.

I just can’t see how it can be that much better to have a tiny piece of the big Christmas pie – up against the biggest juggernauts with marketing budgets big enough to end world hunger, of course – but I suppose it must work for them because they continue to do it. And hey, if they’re getting £350+ out of me again, they must be doing something right.

Logitech Harmony One

Harmony OneBack in 2006, I raved about how much I loved my Harmony 525, and I stand by it. The Harmony range is miles ahead of most other universal remotes, and I’ve used the trusty 525 almost every day since I got it to control my growing army of devices, with even sticky tasks like substituting in a new TV being quick and painless.

My only real concern was the build quality – I called it “acceptable for the price”, and the fact that the 525 now goes for £45 should tell you what that’s euphemistic for – and that’s turned out to be what necessitated an upgrade. It’s survived being sat on and thrown across rooms without increasing in creakiness, but heavy use of the colour buttons (they’re my ad-skip hot keys for my DVR) has left every rubber button on the thing requiring a painful degree of force to activate, if it decides to activate at all.

The 525 and its cousins are a holdover from before Logitech acquired Harmony, so in an effort to get something with the tank-like build of my other Logitech products, I went for a more recent design in the form of its flagship, the Harmony One. One may be a lower number than 525, but it’s spelled out so that you know that it’s better.

The first improvement is in the build quality, which is great. It’s solid, without creaking when you manipulate it, and the buttons are a huge improvement. Gone are the frankly rubbish rubber keys, replaced with ones that feel solid and all have a satisfying click to them so that you’re not reliant the glow of the remote to know if you’ve registered a press. The way that just the white button text glows looks a hell of a lot nicer than the cheap blue glow of the 525, which was itself an improvement on the old-school orange and green glows of the other models.

I’m kind of ambivalent about the touch screen. It allows for cool features like custom channel icons – although, disappointingly, no custom activity icons (yet), so no 360 logo on my ‘Play Xbox 360’ activity – but the screen with mappable buttons on the old one was much easier to use blindly, without actually having to look at the screen. Maybe it’ll come with practice, but it’s not as intuitive. Continue reading Logitech Harmony One

Warhawk is the Best Game on the PS3

The above is a little-known fact, kept secret by a cabal of people who prefer to play good but overrated six-hour romps or watch their games more than they play. Some even say Resistance holds that title, but they’re simply letting us on to the ruse by saying something patently absurd.


I don’t know what it is that got me playing Warhawk so much – and I started playing long before the recent 1.5 patch added trophies, before you suggest that I’m interested in anything other than the gameplay – but it really is fantastic. It reminds me of Battlefield 1942 at its peak, even, unfortunately, down to the hit-and-miss infantry combat. But even if running around on foot with most of the weapons is generally as effective as hitting a tank with a damp flannel, when you’re in said tank or flying around the map in one of the titular aircraft it’s hard to find fault.

It’s now been out for over a year and is still getting significant content and balance patches to add everything from new skins to whole new modes, as well as three ‘booster packs’. People pretend not to notice that the boosters are £3.99 for one map and vehicle, but it’s only because the underlying game is so strong that they daren’t speak out, lest the free stuff go away. Continue reading Warhawk is the Best Game on the PS3