Tuesday, May 12, 2009

10,000G, 100% PURE Class

Not that long ago I posted about reaching 1,000G in a game for the very first time.

Today, I announce my newest gaming achievement. Minutes ago, I reached the five-digit GamerScore! 10,000G.

I gotta admit, I never thought I'd see that number under my Gamer Tag! As I said when I reached 1,000G in Burnout, I wasn't very big into GamerScore until I went online. I think it also helped that I started hitting benchmarks, like the first thousand, and I began to realize just how close I was getting to the 10,000 mark, which lent an air or excitement to each new Achievement I unlocked. Once I was within just a few short points of the big round number, I decided that I wanted to hit it exactly, and searched around for some easily reached Achievements that would give me just the right amount. Conveniently, Saints Row 2 hand a few five and ten point Achievements that I had yet to unlock.

But while Saints Row 2 might have brought me up to the magic number, most recently it was PURE*, a quad bike racing game by Disney, that added a sizable chunk of GamerScore to my tally. Having played the demo months ago, I grabbed this while it was on sale in HMV. It's an awesome racing game, that kicks things up a notch with an incredible tricks system. The tracks are stunningly beautiful, and the character models are fantastically detailed. I love how the bikes and riders start fresh and clean at the beginning of every race, but slowly get covered in a layer of mud and dirt that seems genuinely realistic. The immerse quality of the game can best be defined by revealing that this is the first game in well over a decade that I have found myself leaning side-to-side around corners, or twisting the controller in odd ways as my bike leaps off the apex of a hill into the wild blue yonder! The odd faces I make, and the little yelps of pain only add to the experience. Playing it with an audience adds a further soundtrack of cheers, howls of laughter and gasps of horror, depending on the outcome of some particularly spectacular jumps. I was particularly impressed with the veracity of the locations when a friend called over, looked at one of the loading screens for the start of a race and accurately identified the location. In fact, he had been standing roughly when the image was taken from, and had used the cable car that was visible! Nice!

The game itself is incredibly fun to play. I'd be lying if I said it was difficult, but Disney have successfully walked the thin line that separates easy from hard to create a game that remains fun right through to the end. I managed to get first place in every race fairly easily, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

One of the cooler aspects of the game is the bike creation feature. You get to build your own bikes, with an incredible ten slots to unlock and fill in your garage! Everything can be altered and customised, from performance affecting parts like the frame or engine, to purely aesthetic features, such as the grips, nerf bar or mudguards. Noel, Bob and Chris have all designed bikes for me, each with their own unique take on how I should use them. In all cases, I have gone on to use their bikes over my own! Chris designed a killer stunt track ATV, Bob's bike is great for races, proving that red truly does go faster, while Noels PaleHorse is the perfect all-rounder!

With such great gameplay, amazing graphics, beautiful locations and crystal clear commitment to fun, PURE is a game no racing enthusiast should be without. Seeing the Disney brand on the cover might turn some people off, but this is no Avatar! You earn your Achievements, and it feels great when you do. I pumped the air so often while playing this game I think I strained a shoulder muscle!

That, or I'm just having sympathetic pains for all those times I landed my onscreen rider head-first into the track.

* - I linked to a review of PURE on Xbox 360 Achievements instead of the official homepage, as the games site is entirely Flash based and immediately starts playing sound and music once it loads up. If you'd like to visit the official homepage, just click here. Just remember, you have been warned.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Good Times

While looking through some of the photos I have tagged as "Favourite" on Flickr, I found these, in no particular order.None of these were taken by me, but all of them bring back some great memories. All images link to their original location, so click through to read about them.

In case people haven't seen them, there is a full set of Spider-Man's adventures around Cork, posted by Peter Parker himself, on Flickr. Seems he had a lot of fun while Claire and myself were away in the U.S. last summer. Just follow the link!

The Roof, The Roof, The Roof Is...

This fine morning in Ireland is a Bank Holiday Monday, a day of rest and relaxation, a day of Xboxing, movie watching, comic reading, and, yes, blogging. Claire rose early, requiring tea and Warcraft, while I rolled over in my warm bedsheets, stretching out to enjoy the full space of the bed I now had to myself.

And then the fire alarm went off.

Now, as anyone that lives in Ireland will tell you, when a fire alarm goes off, everyone looks around and says "Is that my phone?" or "Sure, there's no smoke, so there mustn't be fire." The alarm has gone off once before, and I met one of the other tenants who informed me that if it does start ringing, I can just hit reset. If it's a minor incident caused by cooking breakfast, as long as that apartment has already looked after it, it will be fine. The alarm will reset and I can return to my beloved Xbox. The system is the same one NASA uses for it's labs.

Just as I was reaching the hall, the fellow (let's call him Fred for the purpose of this tale) I had previously met was already there hitting reset. I smiled, turned and closed the door.

And then the fire alarm went off.

I grabbed a jumper. "I'll get dressed", Claire said. I went back into the hall and asked Fred if I could help. Apartment 22 was causing the problem, so I raced up the stairs to the fourth floor to see if everything was ok. There was definitely a smell of smoke in the hall, and there was no answer when I knocked. Drawing on years of watching American TV, I placed my hand flat on the door, but there was no heat. Oh yeah. I rock... er... Now what do I do? I started downstairs, filling Fred in by calling down the stairwell. Fred was already on the way up, having left someone else at the alarm controls. We headed to the roof garden and had a look down. A faint smell of smoke, but still nothing visible. Fred and I looked at each other. Time to evacuate.

Both of us walked back downstairs, stopping at each floor to alert the various apartments. Once back on the ground we waited for the arrival of the fire brigade. One of the other tenants in the block rang them, but was just hanging up when we heard the sirens outside. Fast reaction times! They arrived in, questioned one or two of us on the situation, and headed for the building. There must have been ten to fifteen fire-fighters. It was incredible. They were so well organised and meticulous, and everything was done perfectly, at least from where I stood. I enjoyed spotting some of the tech they had as well. As well as all the standard affair stuff, they had a somewhat bulky thermal vision camera. Cool.

They gained access to the apartment in question, and removed a bin bag that had been smouldering from a disposed still-hot cigarette. One of the people renting the apartment had shown up in the meantime, and got a stern lecture about how careless she had been from the lead fire-fighter.

In less than 45 minutes, everything was sorted. We were let re-enter the building, and Claire found her morning cup of tea sitting on the table, cold.

I gotta say, it was a good morning. No-one was hurt. Nothing was destroyed. The people in the block got to meet each other and say hi. It turned into somewhat of a nice experience, and it has encouraged me to consider organising a block barbecue at some point so that we can get to know each other, and will know who is in what apartment if this every happens again.

And now I'm awake. I haven't wasted my morning of freedom asleep in bed. I'm off to fire up the Xbox for a bit.