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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Adolescent 30's: Grand Theft Morality

Two years ago I wrote how the arrival of a bouncy baby Wii for my birthday had caused me to revert to childhood, well my birthday has rolled around again and this year I received a much more mature and responsible present: an XBox 360.

I know, I know (holds head in hands), I'm just so late to the party. However, there comes a time when a man must put away childish things, set aside his Wii-motes, and tackle a series of 18 certificate gaming titles.
Before you do that you need to set the XBox up - and it turns out to be a large, heavy, noisy, warm and rather clumsy beast. Having spent nearly 18 months in Apple Nirvana, it was an odd bump to return to Microsoft land. Setting aside the ludicrously tiny 256MB memory, probably the nastiest surprise was being fleeced for the leads. For some reason the HDMI cable didnt seem to transmit audio (could be my TV for all I know) so I need to connect an audio component cable the AV slot as well as use the HDMI connection. However, the component lead supplied with the XBox covers the HDMI port when plugged in, meaning that you cant plug both in at once, and instead are forced to buy a special Microsoft lead (for 30 ukp) to do the job for you.

Awkward, and perhaps just one-of-those-things? No, I'm afraid not. The component lead is intentionally too big, designed to make you shell out more cash, but in fact you can do something about it. Following this advice I broke the cover, removed the fat piece of useless plastic blogging the HDMI port, and managed to get the original lead working alongside the HDMI connection just fine.

Microsoft, you are truly evil.

Since getting the XBloat 360 up and running I've been venting my frustration on Gears of War 2 and Grand Theft Auto 4 (which makes me feel really old because the last GTA game I played had a top down view :-(

Both are a lot of fun, but I have a tremendous amount of respect for GTA4 in particular. What is so cunning is the way in which it gently coerces you into a life of crime. Starting as a legitimate taxi you pootle around the town being careful to avoid other cars and pedestrians and doffing your hat to the occasional police car, but then a few missions cause you to get a bit reckless, drive dangerously, get into a fight or two, and you realise that there are no consequences to your actions. The character you play, Niko, deals with the gathering mayhem in such a matter of fact way that its all nicely normalised, and before long you're tearing along pavements, pedestrians bouncing off your bonnet, while strafing police cars with machine gun fire.

This is no smiley Wii-faced party-game, this is a full on case study of social disorder, nihilism and psychopathy. I think I'm going to enjoy it :-)