Wednesday 3 December 2008

New DVD collection

I changed the DVD web interface to phpmyprofiler, because the older interface isn't updated any more. This looks a lot nicer than the old one and has some nifty features. Setting this up wasn't much of a task, either. Have a look at the actor pages, for instance.

Here's the collection, it now includes Mari's DVD's as well.

Friday 29 February 2008


I wrote a review of Crackdown for XBox360 to MobyGames. Good game, especially when playing on a console.

The Good

In Crackdown you are a genetically engineered cop with the task of breaking down three criminal gangs controlling Pacific City. Genetic engineering has given you superhuman abilities: the ability to jump incredible lengths and land safely, inhuman running speed, incredible strength that allows you to pick up cars and throw them at your enemies and so on. You will also improve your five core skills (agility, driving, shooting, strength, explosives) by using these skills or by other means, such as collecting orbs. There are 500 agility orbs (which, as the name implies, increase your agility) and 300 hidden orbs which give a small boost to each skill. But there are many other ways of improving these skills, as well, most important being killing gang members and by finishing certain tasks and achievements. These skills have a profound effect on game play. Agility, for instance, increases your jump height which allows you to reach even higher locations.

The logical way of getting rid of these gangs is to start by killing the lower level bosses first because this weakens the bigger bosses. By killing the guy responsible for the gang's weapons, for instance, means that their bodyguards are less heavily armed. Killing the guy doing the recruiting decreases the numbers and so on. But there's nothing stopping you from starting from the top if you want, it's just a lot harder. Once all the bosses are dead you still need to destroy a stronghold and after that the gang is no more and the streets of that part of the city are safe again. Repeat this three times and you have finished the game!

You can also pretty much choose your preferred method of entry: you can crash through the front, sneak in from the back or maybe jump across rooftops. In any case you will meet quite a few enemies, this guy is no 47 (from the Hitman series). Machine guns, rocket launchers and grenades along with fists and feet are the chosen tools of his profession. Most guns have to be confiscated from the gangs first and brought to a supply point before they are available. And these supply points also have to be freed first before they can be used. Or you can also do hand-to-hand combat either with your hands and feet or with items found lying around. After a while these can, as previously stated, include even cars and other heavy stuff.

In between razing the gangs the player can also collect those orbs, do rooftop or car races, try car acrobatics or stunt jumps, hijack gang vehicles and so on. Most orbs are in pretty easy places, but some of the races can be quite tricky to finish in time to get the achievement.

What really sets Crackdown apart from other FPS's is that this game is truly 3D - you will be scaling the height of Pacific City unlike you have ever done. The height difference is dizzying and you can really feel when jumping from one building to another in your stomach. This is the best simulation of parkour I have ever seen, nothing even gets close. And it's surprisingly interesting. You find yourself jumping across rooftops just because it's fun. Imagine being at the top of a 200 feet building and jumping across the street to another, 100 feet high building, only just making the distance. And this is not just a gimmick, you can use this ability to help you defeat the gangs, too. There are lots of places which the enemy can't reach, these are perfect to heal yourself or just simply ambush the enemy. Just beware of those pesky grenades. There is just something in the fact that you are not tied to certain approaches, just come up with your own! After this game any game where you have to go from point A to point B to point C looks unimaginative. And the controls really help moving around, the agent automatically grabs ledges and the controls are responsive. It's easy to jump, turn and fire a few rockets mid air and land on small platform.

Co-op is also supposed to be great fun, although I haven't tried it yet.

The Bad

Controls are almost perfect, but only almost. Sometimes you are left wondering why you couldn't grab a ledge, and there is no simple way of looking up, which would be very useful in this game. The camera also can get funny in small spaces, sometimes the camera is behind the wall, sometimes so close to the character you can't see him, which makes aiming your jumps a bit hard. Cars are also a bit tricky to drive, at least at lower skill levels (I have only reached a one-star rating at this). Most cars seem to slide all over the place and brakes feel weak. In the end I seem to mow down half the civilian population if I try a race.

What really started bugging me in the end, however, was the ridiculous amount of enemies, especially in the last territory. There are so many of them you just get numb after a while. Dozens and dozens of them attacking you. Running through the streets you are shot all the time, no point in shooting back because you'd never get to where you were going. And trying to jump across the rooftops is even worse because you WILL get hit by rockets. By the time I had three or four bosses left, I was getting bored and had to grind the last ones. This task was not made any more interesting by the fact the last boss was at the top of a very tall skyscraper and the entire way up was defended by gunmen who re-spawned if you died or left the building. I made it to the very top three times just to die and then on the fourth time I killed the last kingpin almost by mistake. This was the time I was happy the game isn't as long as the GTA series, as finishing Crackdown took maybe 20 hours in total, although I hadn't maxed out all my skills.

I also have a small gripe about the music track. You can only listen to it when driving but that's just as well because frankly it's quite bad, at least to my taste.

The Bottom Line

Crackdown is close to being a classic. Little more game play (interesting side quests, rather than just races), slightly better controls and this would be a truly great game. Now it's only a very good one. If you have a friend, then this game will give plenty to play - you can first finish this solo and then co-op and even compete the races and time trials. Even collecting the agility orbs is great fun, even though I usually don't like to do stuff like that (collecting stars in GTA:Vice City was a total bore).

Think GTA with an added dimension but with less side quests and being on the right side of law. There is a sequel coming and even though I got bored at the end I'm going to buy it.