Bioshock 2 – Classic game review

3 Apr

Bioshock 2

Welcome to Rapture. An underwater city designed to bring together the world’s best and brightest to create a utopia deep below the sea. Scientific progress has flourished to the point where humans can improve their own bodies by ‘splicing’ up with ADAM, a type of sea slug that allows people to rewrite their own genome.

This can be used to make people stronger, faster, smarter and more and is mass-produced in the stomachs of young girls. But it’s also addictive – and the majority of Rapture has fallen under its influence. The people of this underwater dystopia will stop at nothing to get their fix – and you’re in their way.

And this Ayn Rand-esque world forms the setting for the coolest, edgiest first-person shooter I’ve ever played on the Xbox 360. A game so good that I’ve just completed it for the fifth time and rushed out to buy the original at the first opportunity.

You play Subject Delta, a Big Daddy forced to commit suicide by Sofia Lamb, but brought back to life by her daughter and your ‘Little Sister’ to save her from the cult of the Rapture Family – which Lamb is manipulating to spread her ideals and control the city. Genetically attached as you are, you can’t survive without your Little Sister – and in this world of spliced up maniacs, she can’t survive without you.

Within this engaging storyline, you are forced to choose between good and evil – do you save those who wronged you or let them live? You must use the little sisters you find to get ADAM for yourself to improve your own chances of survival, but do you set them free and take less benefit for yourself or harvest their bodies for your own selfish ends? I’ve always saved them – largely because the process of harvesting these small girls is too disturbing to want to watch it more than once.

Gaining this ADAM allows you to ‘splice up’ yourself. You can add cool new powers such as ‘incinerate’ – a plasmid that allows you to shoot flames from your hand, ‘hypnotise’ which allows you to turn splicers against each other amongst others and the many gene tonics that can be used to improve your strength, speed and ability to fight off enemies.

Bioshock 2 screenshot

But the storyline elements are just part of the brilliance of Bioshock 2. Because not only can you become sucked into the world of Rapture, the gameplay is just brilliant. Running around this atmospheric world, you’ve got a wide range of weapons to deal with a wide range of enemies. And the ability to combine weapons with plasmids is inspired.

Because there are a great deal of possible combinations with which to deal with the splicers. You can set them on fire and then finish them off with your machine gun. Or freeze them with a bolt of electricty and then use your drill to deal a deadly blow. You can turn their own security guns against them or set traps for them to run into. You can shoot them in the chest with your shotgun or just hit them round the head with it. Or you can pin them against the wall with your speargun.

There are so many ways to kill your enemies in Bioshock 2 that you’ll never get bored of doing so. And when you’ve got normal enemies with guns, ones that can teleport themselves around the room, ‘brutes’ that are super-strong, fellow Big Daddies and the undeniably scary ‘Big Sisters’ that screech before they attack, it’s a good job too.

All of these reasons are why, despite the fact that Bioshock 2 is no new release, I’m still moved to blog about it now. The storyline is both engaging and moving and the gameplay is just awesome. And what’s more – you can pick it up on Amazon now for less than a tenner.

If you haven’t played Bioshock 2 or it’s predecessor before – buy it now. You won’t regret it.

Bioshock 2 - Eleanor Lamb

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My most embarrassing moment – the paper round

16 Jan

Paper boyThose who know me now may be surprised to learn that I wasn’t always the cool, collected person I am today *ahem*

In fact, my life pretty much used to consist of merely trying to get through the day without doing anything to completely humiliate myself or, at least, to try and stop anyone finding out about the stupid things I’d done.

I was reminded of the moment that is most brought up at family get-togethers, was shared with my entire football team thanks to my dad, who found it hilarious, and is possibly the most idiotic of the lot.

Before you read it, you need to realise that I didn’t have a lot of common sense back then (I still don’t) – it’s the only explanation for how it happened.

I was 14 years old, an intelligent young man, but fairly awkward and with a propensity for doing stupid things.

I wasn’t a geek or anything, but best fit into the category of inbetweener. I played football, but not particularly well, I was smart, but never found in the library and I liked getting drunk, but looked too young to ever be served.

My income came from a morning paper round. I would be up at 6am, out by quarter past and back by half seven to get ready for school.

I didn’t even get a respite on Saturdays and Sundays – if anything, it got worse because of the weekend papers so I had to do two or three trips.

These days, getting out of a bed is a massive struggle, so it amazes me that I managed to get out of bed every day. But I was used to it and could jump out of bed as soon as my alarm went off.

So when my alarm went off on that fateful day, I just jumped straight out of bed as usual and got dressed.

I headed downstairs, made myself some breakfast, wolfed it down and got on my bike with my bright orange paper bad and left.

I remember thinking that it seemed a bit darker than usual, but I attributed that to the winter months closing in. There were more people around than usual and they all seemed a bit drunk – maybe it had been a student night and people were on their way home.

When I got to the newsagent, it was closed. This confused me – my boss wasn’t the tardy type. If anything, he’d be the one going mad if you were late.

I didn’t have a watch with me and, although I had my first mobile phone, I hadn’t brought it with me. I only really used it try and flirt with girls and they didn’t really appreciate that at six in the morning.

Confused and still only half-awake, I cycled back to the nearest open place I could find to ask them the time. It turned out to be the kebab man. This didn’t seem strange to me.

Kebab manThe kebab man confirmed that it was half past midnight. As he said this, a drunk couple staggered up, took one look at me, burst into uncontrollable laughter and ordered a large doner.

I cycled home, planning to sneak back in quietly so that my family wouldn’t wake up and realise what an idiot I’d been.

Unfortunately, I quickly realised that I hadn’t brought my keys with me. They were always awake by the time I got back, so I’d never needed to.

Fortunately, our brand new extension extended beneath my own bedroom windows. Unfortunately, after climbing on top of it I realised that all of my windows were locked.

So I’d have to wake the house, which, for some reason, I chose to do by opening the letter box and wailing ‘mmmuuuuuummmm, can you open the doooooooor’ until she came down in her dressing gown and did just that.

I’d hoped that my mum, being the lightest sleeper, might sneak downstairs, let me in, laugh at me but agree not to tell anyone.

Unfortunately, she clearly didn’t recognise my voice and was flanked by my dad, who had come down just in case it was a burglar that he needed to knock out. Because burglars always enter houses by wailing through letterboxes.

As it happened, my dad told everyone he knew and probably more. It wouldn’t surprise me if he told everyone he saw that day – I’m sure there is a cashier at the supermarket who probably had a good laugh about it the next day.

He told all of my friends when they came over, all of my teammates on my football team and still laughs about the fact that I had my breakfast at midnight to this day.

I don’t know what it was that woke me up at midnight – it wasn’t my alarm as that went off at 6am as usual – but there must have been a noise that I’d just assumed was my alarm and hadn’t checked.

This was one of many such incidents that used to punctuate my life. These days, I’m better at stopping myself getting that far.

I remembered this story and decided to share it after getting a text from a friend at midnight, which woke me up.

Having got up and grabbed my towel to go in the shower, I did the thing that I’ve learnt from bitter experience to do and checked the time.

I got back into bed, remembered this story, laughed to myself and went back to sleep. At least I didn’t try to go to work with only the kebab man for company.

Championship Manager 03/04 – retro game review

3 Jan
My current Barcelona team on Championship Manager 03/04

My current Barcelona team on Championship Manager 03/04

Of all the hours wasted on all of the Championship Manager/Football manager installments, I look back most fondly on those spent dominating world football for over a decade with Barcelona.

And winning the Premiership with Reading. And taking Boston United into the Championship (before being sacked for finishing in the bottom half…)

All on Championship Manager 03/04.

For me, this was the golden age of football management sims. Everything before was just not quite realistic or detailed enough. Everything afterwards was just too realistic or detailed.

The last game of this type that I bought was Football Manager 2009. Far too detailed, far too many options and far too much to do. It would take a serious amount of hours just to finish a season. I still enjoyed it, but it was too much.

Championship Manager 03/04So the arrival of this in the post for the princely sum of £1.99 made me very happy indeed.

But when I booted the game up and began to try and play it, I was absolutely gutted.

It would seem that I’d actually played my original version of the game (which I’d given away so that I could actually concentrate on my dissertation) on the very same laptop I now own – this must have been a few years after the game came out.

And worse, I’d messed around with the editor to try and cheat a bit – adding players like David Beckham to Reading and so on.

So whenever I started a new game, it was doomed to be a cheat. I’d ruined the game for myself. All I could do was boot up the one save game that remained available from before, titled ‘barcelona’

Well I can tell you now that I’m now a further four years ahead of where I had been all those years ago when I’d started playing ‘barcelona’ and consider that £1.99 to very well spent indeed.

I picked up the game immediately, remembered all of the old players I’d amassed and am just as hopelessly addicted as I was back then. It doesn’t matter that the editor is out-of-date. I don’t mind that I’ll never get to give Messi a run-out in my Barcelona team. It’s more fun to make superstars out of total unheardofs – players that will never exist in fact.

If I put in a CM session then I can actually complete a good portion of the season, even though I play as two managers (Barcelona and, currently, Fulham) In Football Manager 2009 I could play for a few hours and only play a handful of games.

Sure it’s now 2019 in my game and Wayne Rooney is about to retire – one of the few ‘real’ players left as he was 16 when the game started. Sure about half of the clubs in Spain have gone bankrupt and the chances of selling a player are remote. And sure, winning the league fourteen years in a row does suggest that the challenge has gone a little.

But I still absolutely love it.

The only negative I can really pull this game up on is the saving style. I can’t remember if it used to do this, but now when it auto saves every month it creates a new file. Which doesn’t half use a lot of disk space – it completely filled my laptop’s allocation before I realised what was happening.

But that is an option you can turn off, so it’s hard to mark it down.

In short, I absolutely love this game and I would recommend it to anyone over the current versions of the popular football management sim anyday. The only reason not to is that it is out-of-date.

But then the ability to see into the future is quite useful in football management. Word to the wise – a couple of kids called Wayne Rooney and Cristiano Ronaldo get quite good.

Hacking the new Facebook profile images

15 Dec

So I got the new Facebook profile today and immediately set about seeing if I could hack it to make it look much better than it does.

It took me a while to figure out the dimensions that I needed, but it seems as though a good size for the main picture is 180×540 – that’s what mine keeps coming out at anyway.

The five smaller pictures are all 97px x 68px so by taking chunks out of the original image you used for your profile picture you can, in theory, create a cool effect.

Here’s what I’ve managed so far. I’m aware that it’s not there yet, but hopefully you can see what I’m trying to do.

hacked facebook profile

Now check out this video of one of the coolest hacks of a facebook profile that I’ve ever seen. Well done sir!

Further inspiration:

    Crowdsourcing local newspapers on Facebook

    24 Nov
    Express & Star Facebook page

    Express & Star Facebook page

    On researching ideas for using Facebook for local news organisations, I found that there was no easy to find a local newspaper on Facebook. Why hasn’t anybody made a list of all of them before I wondered?

    Because it’s time-consuming seems to be the answer. And having got through all the A’s and the B’s, I thought it time to ask for help.

    So if you’ve some time to spare and fancy collecting some data so that I can put a useful list together and play with some of the data surrounding the regional press and their Facebook presences, read on.

    Using this list of newspaper websites, I’d like people to commit to a letter of the alphabet (no, not X or Z…) and search for each name in the list on Facebook. I’d like to know:

    a) Are they on Facebook?

    b) If so, do they have a group, profile or page?

    c) How many members/friends/likes does their principle persona have? – Please add the date you looked

    d) Is the page used by the organisation? (Is it updated?)

    e) If so, is it updated manually or automatically? If you can tell that is – give away automatic signs are things like RSS Graffiti and twitterfeed.

    If you’d like to take part in this, please claim your letter in the comments section below and email me the results to todd.nash@hotmail.co.uk.

    Being a cyncial guy, I fully expect that nobody will take me up on this offer – I realise I’m not offering much in return – but I will credit you in any blog posts that result from the data being collected.

    A and B have already been done. Claim your letter below.

    • Disclaimer: I work for MNA Digital and look after the Facebook pages for expressandstar.com and shropshirestar.com. Although I may use the data to inform my own work, this is a purely personal project.

    Running into inspiration

    8 Nov

    Yesterday, in a wholly uncharacteristic move, I decided to join a gym. Now having seen the video that I’ve embedded and read that first line, you’ve probably put two and two together. Well, guess what. You’ve made five.

    Because it wasn’t actually until today that I first saw this video and, like the majority of the hundreds of thousands of people that watched it before me, I felt inspired.

    It’s a powerful, yet simple story. For those of you too lazy to watch the video (I don’t blame you, I probably wouldn’t either in your position) it’s about an American guy who used to be fat. Then he started running, lost weight and started to feel better about himself. Seriously, watch it – my description does it absolutely no justice whatsoever.

    Now I’m not a portly chap. Far from it really – I’ve been a skinny little rake for the majority of my life and at 5’9 and 11 stone with a bmi of roughly 22.5, I’m pretty healthy on the face of it. Except that I don’t really feel that healthy.

    I rarely have much energy, I don’t play anywhere near enough sport as I used to and, frankly, I’m just not in as good shape as I would like to be. I feel like my metabolism is slowing down more with every day and I don’t much like the idea of a beer belly.

    And that’s where the overall message of this video comes in. And not just in a fitness sense – the message transpires to numerous elements of my life.

    if you want to do it, all you have to do is do it

    It’s simple, but it’s bloody true. My laziness tends to prevent me from doing things that I actually want to do. Combine that with the magnitude of starting something new and it’s a wonder I ever get anything done.

    Whenever I’ve actually gone for a run, I’ve really enjoyed it. Whenever I’ve decided to go to football even though I really can’t be bothered, I’m really pleased that I did. And yes, whenever I’ve decided to write a blog post instead of having a couple of games of FIFA, I find it far more rewarding.

    So I’m going to try my best to keep that message in mind. There are plenty of things that I want to do – get back to a good level of fitness, buy a car and start driving, write a book.

    Miraculously, I’ve actually managed to do one of those (the car) but how that came about I’m still not quite sure. And I’ve made a start on another by joining a gym. Where I’m getting all this inspiration from, I’ve no idea.

    But I’ll be keeping that little message in mind, because it’s so true.

    if you want to do it, all you have to do is do it

    Short story: Divorce

    5 Nov

    Last year, back when I was living in London, I wrote this short story, but I never did anything with it. I’ve just come across it on my laptop and decided that I should add it to the blog. It is the first and only one I’ve written, so I don’t know if it’s any good, but here goes nothing:

    Shuffling past the endless row of bicycle frames, the distant glow of the underground guiding him along the murky back streets of East London like the Star of Bethlehem, the weathered pensioner pulled at his solid gold watch. An arctic wind bit at his exposed ears like a snarling wolf as he wrenched away forty years of fidelity, catching a half-formed tear in the crevices beneath his eyes. He clutched at his hood, covering his balding crown with woolly warmth, slipping his new treasure into his pocket as he did so. His jewellery, instead of being the proud companion of his left wrist, would now sit with the lint and dirty tissues that soiled his winter coat.

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