Going against the tide, in a speedboat

First of all let me apologise profusely for my failure to deliver during the closing days of blogtober, distractions came in all forms and I had no time for the blog.
Let me bring you up to speed here. When last we spoke I reviewed Arkham City, a game which I am still playing to this day, and I recommend it to all.
I had also in a previous post mentioned the passing of my nan, Olga Beech, and since then we have had the funeral which was (as funerals go) a good day, with a nice turn out to pay respects to a wonderful lady. I also got to briefly meet little Connie, my cousin’s recently born daughter, who is an adorable young sprite.
Something good has also come from the recent contact with family members after my nan’s passing, as through informing some of my relatives about my nan and catching up with everyone, I was eventually told to send my C.V to my father’s cousin Matthew.  Matthew is in the I.T business and I was told to send my C.V as he would keep an eye out for any possible vacancies for me. I thought nothing would come of it but only a day later he was asking me if I would like a job with a very well known broadcasting company hear in the UK. I won’t mention them by name for legal reasons, but they are quite well known.
I am not actually an employee of this broadcasting company actually, but a contractor, and earning a nice wage because of it. The contract is only short term, myself and a few others are installing and upgrading computers. So far there hasn’t been much work for me to do but next week there will be a lot of work to be done.
Thankfully the folks I am working with are all a decent bunch of guys, ranging from my age up to late 30s / early 40s, and we all get along well. There should be some more new guys starting next week so the more the merrier really.
The job came about very quickly, I actually started the day after the funeral, so it has all been a bit of a shock as I didn’t expect to have a job this side of Christmas. I am glad I do though, as I will be able to save up a bit and also buy something nice for my family for Christmas.

So as it goes I have finally fought off the horrors of unemployment, if only temporarily. Although having been unemployed for so long it is a major shock to the system, and I am finding that I don’t have the energy in the evenings to focus on gaming or anything else, so looking forward to the weekend.

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Another Blogtober Fail and Arkham City Review

Okay, I missed another day of Blogtober yesterday but frankly I do not care. As mentioned in my previous post I was waiting for the release of Batman Arkham City, and yesterday all I did was play it. From about 10:30 in the morning till god knows when at night (something like 1am maybe? there was a break when I had to take my parents out and also got a Chinese take away for dinner).
Now for a quick, major spoiler avoiding (because we all know how I feel about that :P) review!

I feel that I can review the game as I am very close to completing it now. I completed the main story campaign yesterday and all the side quests bar the Riddler quests today. Do not let the fact I completed it in a day put you off, remember I played this game solidly and I was not really focusing on the side quests until after I finished the game. The reason I played the story in one day was to avoid spoilers, I knew if i had the internet on, or my phone on, someone would contact me or I would see something on the internet that would ruin the game for me.
The story was fantastic, and a great follow on to Arkham Asylum. I recommend playing that one first as there are nods to parts of Arkham Asylum during the game. The entire scenario is extremely well devised and leaves you wanting to follow straight on with the quest, with many little twists cropping up through out the game.

I also read recently that the game was convoluted with villains, and did not flesh them out properly. I don’t actually think it was that bad. Yes there are a lot of villains but you are in a city completely inhabited by inmates of an asylum and a prison, so there are bound to be loads of villains. It reminds me of the story arcs in Batman’s past such as Knightfall, No Mans Land and Hush in which many of Batman’s villains either band together or are put in a situation that would involve all of them coming into contact with Batman. Also as a huge fan of Batman anyway, I know the back stories of all the major villains in Batman’s rouges gallery, and I think even those out there who are not comic readers should at least be aware of The Joker, Penguin, Riddler and Catwoman at least. I am glad that they got more obscure villains involved though, and they gave a grittier feel to some villains who I used to think were bloody terrible.
I even actually liked the Penguin in this game, and usually I hate the character. I did find it strange that they gave him a cockney accent though, and even stranger that they used Nolan North, an American voice actor, to do it. Still, Nolan North did a great job and I can’t wait to play as his greatest character, Nathan Drake, when Uncharted 3 finally comes out.
The freeflow combat is greatly improved, although I found it hard as I have recently been playing Asylum on the PC so the controller layout was a bit strange at first. You can now counter attack multiple enemies in one go, giving way to some fantastic moves and many bone breaking combos.
The controls out of combat are also very well done, still feeling similar to the controls of Arkham Asylum in most respects the addition of gliding actually feels like a natural extension of the old controls. It does not take very long at all to learn how to glide, but in regards to the Augmented Reality challenges it can be tricky to master, for example one challenge sees you gliding, dive-bombing to gain momentum, then levelling out inches above the floor and trying to travel straight through a long tunnel without hitting the sides, roof or floor.
Batman’s Gadgets also make a great return, although I was a bit shocked he no longer has the triple batarang throw. One of my favourite new Gadgets though is the “Disruptor” which can disable the guns of two enemies if they in Batman’s line of sight. The guns remain disabled, allowing you to directly assault anyone whose weapon remains active, and when the remaining two enemies come to check on their falling friends, they discover the gun no longer works and leave themselves open to a swift beat down.
The side quests have been greatly improved upon. You still collect Riddler trophies but that is only a small percentage of the bigger picture. There are several other, non Riddler related side missions involving assassins, psychopaths and augmented reality training missions. I can’t go into to much detail, as although they are mostly separate from the main story, they are great little stories within themselves and in some cases could be hinting at potential plots for a 3rd game, if one is ever produced.

The Riddler himself has now become somewhat similar to Jigsaw from the Saw movies, as after collecting a certain amount of Riddler trophies you will need to solve clues to lead you to a victim, strung up in some strange trap. I have only completed the first two Riddler traps, which have been interesting so far and I can’t wait until I get access to the next one.

The DLC is also well worth it. The Catwoman DLC adds a nice parallel story to Batman’s, giving 3 or 4 short sections during single player where you control Catwoman doing her part in Arkham City. Rocksteady have done a great job in making her unique to Batman too. Her fighting style, although using the same basic principles as Batman (counter, jump, attack and gadgets), is much faster and more acrobatic. Her style of locomotion is also different, as Catwoman does not have a cape she obviously cannot glide as Batman does. Instead she can use her trademark whip to snap on to the sides of buildings, gargoyles or other objects, and will then swing towards them. If she lands on the side of a wall she will dig in with her claws, and green indicators will show when to press either the A button or Right Trigger, and she will pounce up the wall. You will gain a bit of extra XP if you correctly time your pounces, but getting them wrong wont make her fall off or cause any problems.

I also have the Robin DLC. Unfortunately you cannot free roam Arkham City with Robin, but you can use him in all of the challenge maps and again, he is completely fleshed out and feels like he has his own style.
Instead of fist fighting Robin uses his staff as this is the 3rd Robin, Tim Drake, not the original Robin, Dick Grayson.  Dick Grayson will appear as Nightwing in a soon to be released DLC pack. The basic combat attacks and counters animations are already greatly changed by the incorporation of the staff, including a fantastic 4 man take down where Robin digs the staff into the ground and runs around it like Neo did in the Matrix Revolutions. The staff also has a built in bullet shield, which can be used by going into aim mode with the gadget selected and holding down the Right Trigger. This makes Robin the first character to be able to directly face someone with a gun, and be able to take the shots. The shield only covers him for enemies standing in front of him so it is useless in a big crowd, but you can use it to shove over enemies too.
Robin also has my favourite gadget in the game, the “Snap Flash”. The Snap Flash is basically a tiny limpet mine that detonates like a stun grenade, knocking down anyone near to it. What I love about it is that instead of being used to stick to walls and floors to trap enemies, it is actually used as a close combat weapon. During a fight you can use a quick combo and Robin will grab an enemy, lean him forward and attack the mine to his back. Then at any point during the fight you can detonate the Snap Flash by pressing the Left Bumper, and it will knock down anyone in close proximity to the thug. It is fantastic for thinning out a large mob of attackers when things get hectic, especially as the groups attacking you in this game are often twice the size of the groups from Arkham Asylum.
The voice overs are again brilliant, and I am so glad that Kevin Conroy , Mark Hamill and Arleen Sorkin reprised their roles as Batman, The Joker and Harley Quinn respectively. They provided the voices for the entirety of the Batman Animated Series and the related Bruce Timm DC Animated Universe shows, and they are in my mind the definitive voices of the characters. The score is also absolutely fantastic. It is on par, if not slightly better than, Hans Zimmer’s score for the recent Batman films.

Final Verdict :
This game deserves the praise it has been receiving from all of the reviewers. The story is fantastic, the extra content is well designed and not just tacked on nonsense, the controls are brilliant and the atmosphere is immense.
Even if you don’t read the comics and just like the movies, I definitely think you should give the game a go. It may well change your mind.

Anticipation building

Not a lot to right about today. Went to visit my nan in hospital and she is recovering well, in good spirits and all that.
My dad and uncle went to sort out the death certificate for my other nan today, had a bit of trouble with the doctors signature because the doctor hadn’t visited my nan within 14 days of her death which is apparently a problem, but thankfully dad knows the coroner really well from having worked with him closely for about 12 years so he is going to sort out the signature and get that to the registry office for dad tomorrow morning.

Family things aside, I am currently in full anticipation mode. Batman Arkham City is released tomorrow, and I have been waiting for this game since I finished playing Arkham Asylum. From the reviews and the trailers it sounds as if I wont be disappointed. Im going down to Game first thing in the morning to get it, and locking myself in my room with a few cans of coke and a tube of pringles. My phone will be off, and I will become the Batman. 🙂
Also on the subject of Batman I highly recommend the animated film “Year One”. It is based on the comic version of his origin which in my mind is the definitive origin story of Batman. It focuses half on how Bruce decides to be a bat, and also on the development of lieutenant James Gordon.
I wont reveal any major spoilers, but a scene near the middle of the film where Gordon gives a dirty cop a good beating is very well done.
I am off then, I am going to watch “Let Me In” to fill the time until I pass out, then a good day begins.
Rest well folks!

Rest In Peace Nan

Going to keep it short today, got some bad news this morning. I woke up to hear my dad talking to someone on the phone, and over heard that my grandmother on my fathers side, Olga Beech, has passed away. Happened between 5 and 6am this morning.
Just for clarification this is not my grandmother who was recently taken into hospital, she is recovering well and I will be going to visit her tonight.
It has been expected for quite some time, but it is still a shock to wake up and find out a member of your has died.
My nan suffered with Alzheimer’s and for the past few years has been unable to speak or move. I am not glad that she is gone but I am happy she is now at peace, as that is no way to live.
I’d also like to say thanks for the folks at Plasgeller Nursing Home who have looked after my nan for years, and always given her the best of care.

The good news is the new member of our family, Connie Beech, is healthy and safe with her mother and father. There is always a bright side.

Check your pockets!

So as you may or may not be aware, I am currently out of a job and actively seeking employment. This comes with three things, stress, free time, and a really light wallet.
Yesterday my dad decided that if I took the change jar down to Cwmbran and put it in the machine I could have whatever was in there. my brother also has his own change jar which had almost as much in it, so we thought we would take them down and see what we got today.
We put them in bags as the jars were far to big to lug around, and went to the machine.
Funny side story, I almost killed a woman in front of her infant child. I started using the change machine which is right next to one of those coin operated rocking car things that kids sit in (I used to love them), but this one wasn’t plugged in. So this woman, with a complete disregard for all those around her, and her health and safety in general, decided to plug it in. She was obviously a complete technophobe because some how plugging something in, involved unplugging the machine I was using. The machine rebooted and said it was out of order, thankfully I hadn’t put any money in. I left and was about to lug all those coins back to the car when we decided to check one more time now that Queen Nonce had left, and thankfully the machine was working again.
Back to the main story, I chucked in all my change from the one jar, and also a hefty pile of coins from my bedside cabinet draw. After 10 minutes of sifting coins like a grizzly old prospector sifting for gold, the machine gave my my grand total.
£49.92.
Sweet fecking monkey balls was I happy! considering I had no money this morning, I can now at least go to the cinema some time this week or next week :). I have already spent some on another unit of space marines and a commander, but I got them fairly cheap on E-bay.
My brother also had just over £40.
Then today my dad told me a great story about a copper he used to work with back in the day. This gent still lived with his parents, who had a decent amount of money and wouldn’t accept any off him.
Every day this guy got home he would chuck whatever loose change he had in a big jug and leave it, and this went on for months. This was any loose change, not just coppers, but silvers and pound coins even.
My dad was at the house on this occasion,his mates dad (who lost his arm in a factory incident) says “If you don’t take that out and count it I will take it to the bank myself”
“How are you going to carry it?” replied my dads friend.
“With my f**king teeth if I have to, sort it out”.
So, dad and his friend sat there and counted out everything in the jug.
Final total was slightly more than my £49.92.
It was just over £600.

So let this be a lesson, don’t ignore the church shrapnel. Chuck it in a big safe container somewhere, and let it build up for a few months. Then one day when your bored and struggling for a few extra quid, take it down to somewhere like ASDA or Sainsbury’s, and if they have one of those machines give it a try. You might end up with a heavy wallet again.

After hours of swearing.

Good evening folks.

The rain is really hammering it down out there, so spent the day inside painting and sculpting a new miniature. I probably would have stayed inside anyway, but this way no one frowns on my actions.
You read that right, I sculpted for this son of a bitch, and it was an arduous, painful task to say the very least. I created about 20% of the model using what is known as “Green Stuff”. It is basically a mixture of a blue and yellow plasticine, when combined one of those colours controls how sticky the green stuff is, the other side how long it takes to harden.
And here he is.

The work on the model itself was all done on the legs, usually they are in a normal standing stance, so I had to cut both legs off at the hip, and the models left leg also had to be cut at the knee,which was difficult as he has a knee pad, so i had to cut arround that, and it had to be done with a stanley knife and a lot of pressure.
The green stuff was then used in the joints to reposition the legs. I had already created the rocky base, which is again all green stuff rolled into rock shapes and painted. I also rolled real stones across the green stuff before it set to give it a rock like texture.

I also went over the rocks and space wolf in black badab wash, to give it more detail and a dirty appearance. As you can see here the wash is still drying in some places.

And I covered the entire back of the minature with a cape made out of green stuff, the big crease at the bottom is it going slightly under the gap below his feet, to give the impression of a strong wind at his back.
I was only going to do a short cape but ended up extending it, as I had so much trouble with the legs I needed something fixed to the legs, body and ground to support the miniature.
I am not completely pleased with the end result, and it was a pain in the ass to do, but I think I did fairly well for a first try at sculpting with green stuff. I may add snow later, but I am trying to perfect a good mixture of PVA glue and snow.
Thanks for reading and stay out of the rain!

The Great Chicken Hunt and the Spoils of War

Afternoon folks! What a lovely Sunday it be.
Minor depression still within me after yesterdays Rugby, Wales loosing to France over a stupid decision from the ref. Makes my blood boil it does.
Congratulations to the all blacks for their win today, and can’t wait to see Wales play Australia to compete for 3rd place.

Done a little bit of painting this morning then drove over to my aunties to drop off some things, and ended up helping my auntie and uncle herd their chickens into the new winter coop they just built. It was my first experience of herding animals and it made me feel like John Marston, just without a rope… or horse… or cows.

Following which I returned home, and I have just removed the underlay off the stairs in preparation for the new carpet to be fitted tomorrow.

Onto my subject of interest. As you probably know, as I have not been able to shut up about it for the last few weeks, Batman Arkham City is released this coming Friday, and already the reviews are up and it is getting 9.5s and 10s, so I am pleased.
I often go on the gamespot website and look through the forums for different games, and saw one post warning not to watch the gamespot video review, as it reveals a major spoiler without warning.
My point is this, should games reviewers be allowed to give out any plot points other than the basic story? It is one of my major peeves to sit through a video review only to have the reviewer suddenly say “and it shocked me in the 3rd act when it was revealed Kirby was actually Keyser Soze!”
So, should video game companies try and in force some sort of  “no spoilers” rule on review companies? I think so, unless it is explicitly stated before a review, in type so bold it jumps out of planes without a parachute, that there are spoilers within.

The new Beech

Quick blogtober update today, but I’d like to start by welcoming Connie Beech, daughter of my cousin Tom and his girlfriend Kelly-Anne, into the world 🙂 the world needs more Beeches :p
Currently at Rachel’s with she and Steve, watching Cop Out. Films okay so far.
Been an okay day but spent way more than I intended to in games workshop. Bought a new unit of space wolves, some gloss, bleached bone paint, green stuff and a mini drill.
Got a big idea for a unique modification I am going to dl, but waiting for some bits to arrive from a polish model developer.
Also saw my nan in the hospital again, she is recovering well. And as I was about to leave my cousins girlfriend showed up with their baby I haven’t seen in 6 months. Biggest eyes on a baby I’ve ever seen! Cute lil blighter.

Happy anniversary!

Firstly, Happy Anniversary to my Ma n Pa!

Second, short post today I think, can’t focus on what to write on. Freaking lovely outside today though, weathers great.
As modelling goes I ordered some unique pieces today, some heads, skulls and fur capes. Tomorrow is the 1 year birthday of Games Workshop in cwmbran, and they are doing a give away for anyone who spends over 25 quid, so its a good excuse for me to buy another unit of men.
Then using the new unique bits, and some greenstuff (a type of modeling plastecine that goes rock solid, so you can really modify the positions of your models) I plan on making my Lone Wolf character.
Lone Wolves are the last remaining Space Wolves of a unit, when all their battle brothers are killed it is on their honour to constantly seek out the strongest enemy in the hopes they are given a warriors death to join their brothers. They dont move to another unit, they actively seek an honourable death, but will still fight to the bitter end.

Last bit of news. I preordered Batman Arkham City from Game today. It is released in a weeks time and I seriously cannot wait for it to be released. It looks stunning, and it is getting reviews in the 9 to 9.5 range, some magazines even stating it is the greatest licensed video game ever created.
And the new launch trailer came out today, and it looks so freaking good. See below.

Judge Dreadnought Vs Terminators

Finally the dreadnought I ordered off E-bay arrived! I have been waiting for it for almost 2 and a half weeks now, and I hate waiting for things in the mail. Three of my favourite words to see on a website are “next day delivery”.

As mentioned in a previous post, a dreadnought is a very powerful Warhammer 40k piece, a giant mechanized walking battle tank controlled by a near dead Space Marine in a sarcophagus. Since starting I new I had to get one as they are absolute beasts on the playing field and can rip through most enemy units like a knife through air. It isn’t the Space Wolves unique dreadnought though, just a generic Space Marine dreadnought. but I did manage to etch in a faded looking wolf symbol on his left shoulder pad. He came armed with a multi-melter arm on the right, and a close combat claw/storm bolter arm on the left. My brother was also kind enough to give me one of his bases, so instead of the generic flat base he is stood on a rocky base with a few spent bullet shells and a human skull at his feet. Makes him look a bit more dynamic.

Also finished painting my Terminator unit, the biker and bike, and all of my scout unit. All I have left to paint now are 4 Space Marines, and the shoulder pads for all the Space Marines. I Purposefully left out painting the shoulder pads until later, as there are two key units in the Space Wolves. Blood Claws, the younger marines, and the Grey Hunters, the older more experienced men. I think this unit will be assembled as Grey Hunters as the weapon load out I have given them is more suited to Grey Hunter style fighting, which is a mix of mid to close range, but focusing mainly on close quarters combat. Blood Claws also do a lot of close quarters fighting, but as they have less experience they are supposed to dwindle down the enemy numbers from a distance first, then go in for the kill.
I also found a great website which makes unique “bitz” for warhammer modeling, including some great feral heads, fur cloaks, skulls and armoured knight heads which would look great on a Space Wolf unit. So I know where my money is going when I have some spare!

Here is a quick video of my Terminator unit and the Dreadnought, sorry for the low lighting, its hard to get it right in my room. Very dingy.