YLoD, and Economics.

AUUUUGH.

That is the heart-rending scream I made as I realized my PS3 would only continue play if I inserted $250 AUD. My system has fallen victim to the latest wave of trendy hardware failures: the Yellow Light of Death.

It occurs when (among other causes) the console is left on for long periods of time, causing the lead-free solder to dry up and break. This in turn breaks electrical contacts on the motherboard, causing a system-wide hardware failure.

The symptoms start either during play, when the PS3 abruptly turns off, or the next timeĀ  you turn it on. When you push the button, the box will boot normally for all of 3 seconds before both the green and red indicators flash, producing the distinctive yellow light.

Then the PS3 shuts down, leaving the red indicator blinking and hundreds of dollars of electronics useless.

It’s a startling look at how shortsightedly modern products are developed. I’m not going to go on an old-man-rant here, but planned obsolescence is how commercialism works. If you sell someone a product, you want them to buy things again. They’re not going to do that unless they don’t want what they bought from you earlier.

Obviously the YLoD is slightly off in it’s timing, but it’s a part of the almost deliberate ignorance of long-term problems in commercial products. This practice has been in place since the start of mass-production in the 1920’s and 1930’s, and most of the time things made before that are still around today.

Look at Tudor-era houses in Britain, or Dynasty-era buildings in Asia. They’re regularly used. They’re iconic. And they’re a hell of a lot older than my PS3 while being in better shape. Hell, even my NES console (made in 1985 with a questionable lead content) is in better shape.

Economic discussion aside, I’ve still got to fork out $250 and wait at least 4 weeks for my PS3 to work again.It’s annoying, but it’s gobbled up MW2 and all my save data is on there. Wish me luck.

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Assassin’s Creed 2

Big long gap between reviews, as I have not had the time or money to purchase anything new.

Assassin’s Creed 2 is a large improvement on it’s predecessor. It includes the same basic concepts of investigation and assassination, but also include many new features that provide a much better play-through than the original.

Following the events of AC1 the hero, Desmond Miles, escapes the laboratory where he was held captive and joins the remaining Assassin’s in the fight against the modern Templars. He is once again shoved back inside the Animus (v2.0 this time) in order to train him using another ancestor’s memories.

The forebear in question is womanizer, troublemaker and all-round badass of Florence, Ezio Auditore da Firenze, who is certainly more fun to play as than angsty emo failure Altair, who never showed his face and had no back-story other than ‘he screwed up and now it’s his second chance’. This new assassin is every bit more enjoyable to play.

Gameplay is better not just due to the character upgrade, but also due to the shiny new gadgets Ezio can use. As of this writing I’ve only got the one hidden blade and a sword, but the trailers announced that Ezio would be able to use two hidden blades, smoke bombs and even a rudimentary gun. They are all repaired, designed or provided by a 30-year-old Leonardo da Vinci who is great to watch bounce around his home as he exclaims how intricate the workings of the hidden blade are.

Leo’s fizzing personality is only one of many new allies that assist the Assassin during the story, with much better voice acting, body language and facial expressions for everyone. In the first game there was a scary quality about eyes that put you off looking too hard at people, but it’s been fixed in the new game with more natural-looking curves in the faces that really, really look good. Big thumbs up there. Only nitpick is Lucy’s lips, which look like they’ve been put through a pumping machine ordered off a late-night infomercial. Erugh.

Techinical gameplay is also much improved, with hiding in groups of people no longer restricted to scholars. You can hide in stationary groups of chatting people, moving crowds and even quartets of 15th century prostitutes. A database is also now available, giving historical information about everything from important plot characters to locations. It’s great, and makes you remember that history is happening all around Ezio.

Assassin’s Creed 2 is a excellent game, with a well-told story, easy-to-use gameplay features and a really good characters. I recommend you pick it up from your local game store or even just try it.

PS3 firmware v3.0

Yesterday I downloaded the 3.0 firmware update that has revamped the XMB. The most noticable change is that sparkles have been added to the normal wavy background. Also the center of the XMB has been shifted to the left a bit and the icons are larger. This can make it a bit difficult to navigate until you get used to it, but it no doubt helps gamers with poor eyesight. Also, the Information Board has been replaced with a more all-rounded ‘What’s New’ board, covering information from new arrivals in the Store, to your most recently played games. There’s also more minor changes to the friends list, trophies and more.

Ghostbusters: The Video Game

I downloaded the new Ghostbusters video game from the Playstation Store a few days ago, and it’s given me Ghostbuster fever. I cannot stop humming the theme. It’s so brilliant.

The game is practically Ghostbusters 3, being written by the people who did Ghostbusters 1 and 2 and voiced by the same actors from the original movie. There are also icons from the originals like Slimer and the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man.

You take control of a new addition to the group, a faceless rookie who speaks less than the Master Chief. He/She has a proton pack and traps too, both upgradeable to do different things like slow ghosts down, etc.

The wonderfully misused jargon from the original movies is also back, with words like boson, particle stream and quantum being used for any old thing. This gives it a ‘mad science’ air about it which makes shooting things even more enjoyable.

A scary atmosphere was also pulled off well, with your main ghost detection mode restricting you to a narrow view through goggles. No peripheral vision means that all kinds of crap can sneak up on you and scare the bejeezus out of you.

This was a great game, and I hope the developer team have the sense to finish on this wonderful note.

Behind The Bullet

Behind The Bullet was originally a Killzone 2 commercial that evolved into a 4-dimensional information-loaded video clip. It’s as cool as it sounds. It’s available for download on the Playstation Store as a game, and reasonably so.

The premise is that of following the flight of a bullet fired from the gun of a soldier as it flies across a battlefield and hits the enemy commander. This is very cool to watch in it’s own right, even the music is once again superb, just like the choice of the Flower Duet song for the reviews trailer.

This gets even better with the addition of changing the speed at which the clip is played, the angle, the stage of production you are looking at and even the commentary you are listening to. There are even hidden details like someone getting shot or an explosion that you would normally miss if you could not pause it and look around.

An aforementioned feature is the production stages mode, in which you can flip through all the different levels at which the movie was made and rendered. There’s a shadow/lighting layer, a distance layer and more. It also includes letting you change how much of the screen is stripped away, letting you compare things.

Commentary was also mentioned earlier, with the voices of the director, lead tech and others all providing background on the clip and pointing out particular features. They are attached to the time on the commercial, not from when they are activated, so you won’t have to restart BTB on order to hear it all.

This was a joy to watch and showcased some new graphics and rendering techniques not used in the game. The original advert is below.

Infamous

InFamous in fact deserves a lot more praise than my original scathing review. Having mastered the steep learning curve (my only major beef) the game becomes fun and enjoyable to play.

It’s like Assasin’s Creed with Mirror’s Edge’s ‘flowing parkour’ style, plus superpowers. Combat is repetitive after a while with no cool tricks to do in the beginning, but this is quickly remedied as sticky electro-grenades, static gliding and other powers are unlocked.

The story takes 2 branches depending on whether you make ‘good’ or ‘bad’ karma decisions. These come in the form of choosing to steal supplies or earn them, stop a riot or inflame it and many more. Often the ‘good’ decisions come with an associated cost, such as a harder time winning a battle, or your objective is better guarded.

The karma system also affects what powers you develop. ‘Good’ karma develops powers that restrain and incapacitate the enemy quickly, while ‘bad’ karma comes with highly destructive and indiscriminate powers.

Moving around the city is fun and easy, especially if you have prior experience with Mirror’s Edge. The predisposition to find faster ways of getting around helps a lot.

The main character is a bicycle courier called Cole who is asked to deliver a package that blows up en-route. when he comes round, he is in the middle of a blast crater with new-found superpowers. Soon after, a plague hits the city and a quarantine goes up.

He then makes contact with a federal agent on the other side of the quarantine who tasks him with finding her husband, another agent who was investigating a terrorist ring who were making a biological weapon that is likely to be what you were delivering.

This game is very good once you learn the in-and-outs, and I cannot stop playing. It’s very addictive.

Crash Commando

Crash Commando is a side-scrolling deathmatch shooter updated for today’s console consumers. It (and many other games) take much of the gameplay from Worms, the hugely popular invertebrate killing simulator of 1995.
You take control of a generic soldier (red or blue) and choose from a selection of standard weapons such as rifles and grenades. The levels are predominantly 2D gameplay-wise, although the graphics are 3D and show things like other battles and scenery in the background.
This is an under-par game that gave me no incentive to keep playing. If only the game had a better variety of weapons, then I might have had better thoughts about it.