Wednesday, 20 February 2013

It's going to be legen- wait for it- dary!

I've been a fan of How I Met Your Mother since 2011 when I would watch random episodes on the tv. I just finished the 4th series on dvd and I'm glad I am getting the box sets. The series is really funny watched in any order but I'm a devout chronologist wherever I can be.

The basic premise of the programme is this bloke Ted telling his kids the story of how he met their mother. It is commonly described as a love story in reverse. It centers around Ted and his four friends Barney, Lily, Marshall and Robin and their various relationships, lives and particularly in Barney's case, sexual conquests.

The series goes through a vast number of funny anecdotes and stories, too many to list. So this blog entry is going to focus on the main cast, the 5 main characters, in order from right to left of the above photo (a wink to the the reversed nature of the programme).

First is Marshall Eriksen. He is a lovable and very intelligent lawyer. He is engaged to Lily and they operate as a couple with all the advantages and disadvantages that entails. He has worked for a big corporate law firm although he has strong aspirations to become an environmental lawyer. He is a very endearing character although there are occasions where he has crowning moments of badass, where he reminds people who intend to hurt his friends he can go from a big cuddly teddy bear to a fierce bear of Viking descent.

Next we have Lily Aldren. She is a cute and kindhearted kindergarten teacher and artist. Engaged to Marshall they function as a couple. She hasn't made her main career as an artist but has the qualities needed to do well in her career as a teacher: kind, considerate and patient. She is quite adorable and funny, but also has a fabulous dark side (a sexual ferocity) which makes her character even more interesting.

Right in the middle, since it is ultimately his story is Ted Mosby. He is an undying romantic and at the same time delightfully cynical and pedantic in other regards. Even if his relationship with one woman is failing, it doesn't stop him from believing that there is one woman out there for him. He is quite a nice contrast to himself comically, since one one hand his wit can be dry and sophisticated with a hint of snark, but on the other hand he has a tendency to tell corny yet uplifting "dad" jokes. He is both an architect and a meta-architect. An architect by profession, and a meta-architect by way of being omnipresent within the story and externally as the narrator, putting together the building materials of his and his friends' stories  into a grand, amazing structure.

Now we have Robin Scherbatsky. She is a sexy and passionate news reader. She is single but she has tried her best at relationships many times and continues with a sense of determination but also fun. She may be independent but she is dependable and loyal to her friends, even if she has had complicated relationships with 2 of the other 5 core characters of HIMYM. Some of her relationships can get complex due to her devotion to her job but I find her energy to her goals deeply admirable.

She doesn't usually dress like this but I'm sorry I had to!

While I am in the mood here is something else I found funny:

Finally, but not ignored (I deliberately added him last), is Barney Stinson. He is an executive whose exact job role is still mysterious. He is the lovable womanizer of the group, reveling in a bachelor life of women, drink, adventures and challenges. Although he is very much a one night stand man (with one notable exception) his loyalty to his friends is intense, particularly how ferociously he claims to be Ted's best friend. His charisma is pretty incredible, and his overall trope in my opinion would be jerk with a heart of gold, he can be selfish and cruel but ultimately he's a good and entertaining fellow.

Before I give this blog entry over to my regular guest Norman Osborn, I have a Ted style joke to tell. The joke was the second thing I thought of when creating this blog after the title, and was the reason why I put Barney as my last character of this post.

If Barney owned a farm of cows would it be legen- wait for it- dairy?

Haha I enjoyed that joke! Today I approve of: suiting up!

Thursday, 7 February 2013

Your eyes on the city

It's been a long time coming and I have wanted to write this blog entry since I completed my last one. I'm not usually a a fan of driving games, but Ubisoft Reflections provided a game which may change all that, and at the very least a game I will play over and over and enjoy every minute.

 Interestingly the Reflections studio of Ubisoft is a local studio to me, being based in my home city of Newcastle in North East England. It holds a special connection with the name Geordie Green Lantern!

This Driver San Francisco blog entry will be focusing on 4 elements: The Plot, The Gameplay, The Music and Replay Value. I decided to not write about the graphics because I don't have much to say. They are very good and the cars are just beautiful. I am not very good at describing graphics and my car knowledge is very minimal!

The Plot

You get to play as undercover cop John Tanner. Partnered with his buddy and fellow cop Tobias Jones, you drive through the streets and roads of San Francisco in a mission to find and take down the cop killer and smuggling kingpin Charles Jericho.

Jericho- one bad motherflipper. 
The Gameplay

IF the game was just about the thrill of the chase and the excitement of a busy city of streets and roads, this game would still be a joy to play. However it is more than that. For a start I remember giving up on the first Driver because it was just too hard from the start, I don't like getting frustrated near the start of a game. Driver San Francisco however has a beautifully balanced and gradual learning curve, something that other driving games should learn from.

The variety of cars is another thing. One minute you can be driving the sexy Dodge Challenger with speed and grace down long straight roads, the next you might choose to carefully maneuver an oil tanker or wind a fire engine carefully through hilly streets and dirtroads.

There is a boost option available, a meter that increases after you gain more willpower which is available early in the game. While fun and very useful it is not the element that makes the game so unique. That comes with the shift ability. In previous Driver games you could use different vehicles, but in a standard "get out of your car and get in the new one" way.

In Driver San Francisco however, you don't need to get out of the car. The shifting ability is something that can be used across vast distances of the city, although relatively limited at first (like maybe a few blocks or streets away) you can eventually shift into a car from where you are driving or parked to the ends of the map. This is not only very useful but essential in some parts of the game.

This is how you first see shifting. 
So far in terms of gameplay I have mentioned the boost option, the core gaming mechanic of the shifting ability, the thrill of the chase and the variety of vehicles. The number and quality of main missions are a good amount. You have to finish some side missions in order to proceed to further main story missions but these are fun and varied.

The cut scenes are wonderfully cinematic and tell a rollicking fun, funny and action packed story. Dialogue is just superb, especially between Tanner and unknowing passengers. It isn't just one offs though. Some missions require you to return to a certain vehicle.  As a bonus an interesting narrative develops about the lives of the passengers including a police officer having an affair. And then there's the final level which is so brilliant if I were in the company of friends, I would ask them all if they had played the game and if they hadn't then I would just say nothing at all, with a big grin of course!

"I don't care if that's your serious face Tanner, I refuse to even hint  why the last level is awesome."
The Music

This was simply a delight, there was a decent variety which made the game even more fun!

Here is a song I discovered because of the game which not only captures the essence of the game but is also my personal favorite and the one I would hope for most on the in game radio.

Replay Value: There are only 4 X-box 360 games I own that I would gladly play over and over again and Driver San Francisco is most definitely one of them. It is worth it for the replay of the story, the feel of the missions and of course the game is loaded with very enjoyable extra missions, stunts and jam packed with extras like extra races and the ability to purchase all the vehicles in the game by spending willpower points.

With all that in mind, I have described why I think it is a must have game. Now for something a little more personal: what the game gave to me.

  • Being able to buy a Corvette in game was a beautiful wondrous thing, it brought back memories of when my Granda used to take me for rides in it and we would go to car shows in it. He's still alive, but the Corvette is long gone. The memories of it were brought back in Driver: SF. 
  • I get bored of games where you are shagging hos and killing random bystanders in the street, so a car game where someone does good is a refreshing change. Yes you can have chases with the police but they aren't exactly innocent bystanders lol. Well the ones in the cars might be, but they don't come to harm so it's ok.
  • Speaking of justice, let my inner vigilante say it is an absolute pleasure to destroy the cars and other vehicles of villains.
  • And on a lighter, final note: I love this game so much that I even bought myself a John Tanner outfit for my Xbox avatar, and this is what it looks like: