Monday, 21 November 2011

Power of Making

"Making is the most powerful way we solve problems, express ideas and shape our world. What and how we make defines who we are, and communicates who we want to be. Power Of Making is a cabinet of curiosities showing works by both amateurs and leading makers from around the world to present a snapshot of making in our time."

That's how my bro Fuad described the 'Power of Making' exhibition we went to see yesterday at the V&A. This very unique exhibition has over 100 different items ranging from a life size crochet bear, a ceramic eye patch, a fine metal flute and a dry stone walling.


The exhibition is still on until 2 January 2012 and I do recommend you go check it. The pictures I got here really don't do it justice, plus the V&A is worth a look anyway.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Top 10: Games

As I really haven't done or got anything new I'd like to show you peeps I thought I'd share a bit about myself as far as my interests and tastes. Now I been a gamer my whole life and have play a fair amount over the years, from RPG's, shooters, fighting, MMO's and adventure games. I do have a fair amount of favourates and I'm interested in seeing what people think of my top 10. So we'll kick things off with:

No.10: Portal (PC)
This is a first person/puzzle game that Valve added as basically a stocking filler to the 'Orange Box' set to pad it out along with 'Team Fortress 2' and 'Half Life 2'. It wasn't suppose to get anyones attention but turn out to be one of the best games/franchises Valve ever produced. My mindset going into it was a variety of puzzles that I could play on a rainy day when I'd gone through everything else and that's exactly what I got. What I didn't expect was not only the most interesting and challenging puzzles I've done but some of the funniest pitch black humour I have ever heard in a game. My only issue would be that it's only two to three hours long (depending how much trouble the puzzles give you) but I can live with it. It doesn't mean it drags out and you don't wait that long for the brilliant climax that puts most mainstream games to shame.

No.9: Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (X-Box 360)
I have never been one for army shooters, mainly because series like 'Call of Duty' and 'Medal of Honor' are samey shooters with no concept of realism, always set between 1941 and 1945 depicting America's only soul momment of glory in living memory by shooting an endless string on Nazis. The fact that 'Call of Duty 4' was set in the present day was enough to get me interested and after playing I was hooked. The story is based around the thief of some nuclear weapons in Iraq and the Americain marines are sent in to sort it out but end up making things worse so the British S.A.S. have to fix it, who you spend most of the game playing as. You shift between the two factions allowing you to experience various enviroments and combat styles which means boredom never happen and the controls are intuitive enough to be effective however you have to apply them. And if more justification is needed I'll just say this; since this came out how many army shooters have been set in World War II?

No.8: Star Wars: Shadows of the Empire (N64)
Now I'm a massive Star Wars fan and I've played most of the games LucasArts has released over the years. Lets be honest, most of them were crap. There are a few exceptions (Force Unleashed, Rogue Squadron, Dark Forces) but the one I had the most fun with would be this game. It is based on a comic set between 'Empire Strikes Back' and 'Return of the Jedi', the plot involving crime organisations, murder, kidnap & a lizard-man with a grudge against Darth Vader. You play as mercenary Dash Rendar who is basically Han Solo but half as likeable, traveling to a variety of planets and locations in the Star Wars universe including tattooine, a junkyard planet and starting things off on Hoth. What I love in this game is not only the variety of locations but also in gameplay. You can be flying around on Hoth in a snow speeder then next be running around the sewers of Coruscant battling giant one eyed tenicle monsters, from pitch space battles in astoriod fields to battling Boba Fett on a jet pack. This classic N64 game is a must have for any gamer in my opinion.

No.7: Grand Theft Auto: Vice City (PS2)
If you've never heard of 'Grand Theft Auto' then I'd like to know what rock you been hiding under, as this was the franchise that practically invented sandbox gameplay. Each game in this series allows players to take on the role of a criminal or a wannabe in a big city trying to get to the top of the crime world up a pile of stolen cars, bodies and escort missions. You can steal more or less any vehicle in sight including cars, bikes, boats and even tanks in some of them. Beat up, shoot or run over anyone you see plus the language, violent levels and gore are enough to make Freddy Krueger whince. But then again thats why it's so popular and thats why I love it. There have been 15 of the games over the years but Vice City is by far the most fun. This was when the series starting to show signs of gritty & realism but still was very whacky, exaggerated and colourful enough to have a lightness of tone dispite all the blood and drugs. The variety of weapons is staggering the characters you meet are very well rounded and keep you interested. I could keep going but all you need to know is the story is tight, the humour and piss taking will put a big grin on your face and the gameplay is as solid as you can get. You won't find much better.

No.6: WWF No Mercy (N64)
Those of you that know me well know I'm a big wrestling fan, ever since I was little. There have been many wrestling games over the years from different organisations but my favourate has to be 'No Mercy' from WWF and THQ. This was always fun to play, fun to watch and just... Well fun. The game mechanics are sound being very intuitive allowing to use varied of styles depending on the match type and what character you want to play as. This was the first game to have a 'Ladder Match' game mode and has a very in-depth story championship mode with each WWF title featuring a unique story. The story mode's depth is due in part to its branching storylines that develop based on the outcomes of the player's matches, which you don't really see in future games. Also the amount of wrestlers you get to play as is unbelievable, with a 65+ roster to choose from including The Rock, Stone Cold Steve Austin and Shawn Micheals. This is a must have for any wrestling fan in my books. 

No.5: Mass Effect 2 (X-Box 360)
I'm going to get a lot of stick for what I'm about to say but I never the first 'Mass Effect'. I tried playing it once but couldn't get into it and left it at that. When the second game came out two of my close friends practically forced me to play it and I can say truthfully say I'm glad they did. You play as Commander Shepard (whose gener seems to be unrecorded by history), legendary space captain in his campaign to save the galaxy from the Reapers. The story behind this game has to be one of the very best in gaming history. It's a deep, compelling tale that keeps you wanting to know what happens next to you and your comrades, each with their own stories that you explore in great detail and has a brilliant climax that has me longing for the third installment to come out already. The cover based shooting gameplay is solid, with a variety of weapons and powers to play with depending on the class you pick. The first game never really sold me the franchise, but the second has made me a fan for life.

No.4: Batman: Arkham City (PS3)
A couple of months ago 'Arkham Asylum' would of been here, but then DC released the sequel and made what I thought was impossible and made the game better. Batman is one of my favourate comic book characters and apart from 'The Dark Knight' movie this has to be the best representation of him outside the comic book world. The story is very good and able to fit a lot of the major villians and don't make it feel like they were put in there for the sake of it (apart from Bane) and the actual fights with them don't consist of fighting legions of henchmen while they taunt you. It's also one of the rare games that balances stealth and action and still keep it fun. Fighting controls are simple and flow seamlessly and the stealth elements when your hiding in the raffters picking off a group of thugs one by one puts most steal games (Metal Gear, Splinter Cell) to shame. The City itself isn't that big compared to most sandbox games but considering that you can only really get around by gliding it's probably for the best. I have yet to meet someone who has played it that hasn't had fun with it and even after completing Batman's and Catwoman's story lines I'm still playing it. That in itself is rare.

No.3: GoldenEye (N64)
When I got my N64 this was the first game I got and it was also the first shooter I ever played. It's based on the James Bond movie of the same name and I couldn't put it down. This was the first FPS for consoles and introduced new innovations not seen in roaming shooter before including a zoomable sniper rifle, stealth elements and a multiplayer deathmatch mode. You play as 007 himself and have to make your way throght each stage completeing a certain amout of objectives (depending on what diificulty you have it on) and exiting the stage. Shooting is exciting and having to stealth it up in some levels doesn't let you go completely all out and get bored of samey shooting, but there are levels when you can go nuts like the one where you run through downtown Moscow in a tank! The variety of weapons and gadgets you are given for each stage is actually quite impressive and means that you can replay stages over and over again and not get bored. This game changed the standard of shooters and got me into them. 

No.2: Final Fantasy X (PS2)
This was the first 'Final Fantasy' I had ever played and is still my favourate (yes I've played and completed FF7 but I still prefer this one). It was given to me by a friend years ago. I started playing it about 9 at night out of boredom and only put it down because I realised the sun was coming up and I had college in two hours. This is a J-RPG about a boy named Titus transported to the strange world of Spira and begins a quest to get home and help summoner Yuna to rid Spira of the force that brought Titus there in the first place, Sin. What I love most about this game is the story. The journey through Spira with Titus and his companions is fall of laughter, action, betrayal and tears and I key at it just to see what would happen next. The characters are well rounded and each having a lot more to them then it appears at first, each with a back story that is actually quite interesting. This was the first FF game with speech and a full 3D world that doesn't feel like you're running around on a gaint piece of cardboard with adds to the immersion. The action gameplay consists of random encounters that become turn based combat (standard for most J-RPGs) with three of your team taking on a group of enemies taking it in turns to attack, defend or preform other actions. It does sound boring there is stategy to each fight and trying to get through it with as few hits as possible is quite entertaining. Apart from my next choice this is the only game I could happily pick up and play again without argument, I mean if you look at how long I played my first attempt it was in the 300 hour mark. Not many games can claim I've spent that long playing it.

No.1: Shadow of the Colossus (PS2)
This was the second game from developers Team ICO and I have never played anything like it before or since. The plot of the game is a young warrior goes to a forbiddon land to seek the help of an imprisoned demon to bring the love of his life back from the dead. The demons agrees but his terms are that you kill 16 giant monsters with nothing more the a sword and a bow. The game is split between roaming a vast and beautiful setting (even with todays graphics it's still jaw-dropping) and pitch battles with 30ft high monsters. The roaming is very peaceful with the only real thing to do is find your way to the next colossus and the battles are niosy and intense which creates an effective contrast. Contrast is important in games as I get very bored very quick shooting the same three guys 500 times and you can't get a bigger contrast then in this game. The monster fights themselves are equal parts boss fights and puzzle platformers, each of them unique in their own way but the key point really is to jump on them, find the weak spot and stab at it til it fades. Now if jumping from your horse onto a flying snake, crawling up his body while you're flying 50mph 100ft in the sky trying not to fall off as the grip gage dwindles away doesn't make for exciting gameplay then I think it's time to reaccess your standards. One of my favourate things about this game is the colossi themselves. They actually feel colossal, moving slowly around making the ground shake with each step, each richly detailed with dirt and plant life. They make you feel like they are something that has been sleeping in the ground for so long that they have become a part of the landscape and that you have rudely awaken them. It wants you to keep playing just to see what the next monster will look like which few games can claim. There is nothing else like it and is the most fun I've ever had on a console.