Sunday, 4 January 2015


Back in the late fifties/early sixties there was an old guy who lived in the halfway house along Tubbenden Lane. Sometimes he would sit just outside the gate or would be seen walking along Orpington High Street. Nothing unusual about that except that he wore a black leather bikers jacket, jeans and winklepickers - and a cloth cap and used a walking stick.

And what did we young people think? Silly old fool.

Sometimes he would be found, sitting alone, nursing a cup of frothy coffee in Divs (DiVito's long before it moved into The Walnuts shopping centre) the haunt of the local bikers. Nobody ever spoke to him.

So, here I am in my seventieth year not yet ready to wear that neatly pressed beige uniform that people my age are expected to wear. Instead, leather jacket; T-shirt and jeans - no cloth cap though or walking stick.

The difference between then and now is that I can walk down Orpington High Street because there are others like me. Go to the Ace Café by Stonebridge Park tube station and still find people of my age group dressed the same as we were fifty odd years ago.

Then look at the younger generation  they dress like they want to be us. Parkas, leathers, mini-skirts - Lambrettas and Vespas and motorbikes in all sizes. Nothing funnier than watching a kid try and do a wheelie on a scooter - except that I don't laugh at him but at myself because I can remember when I was him.

These days I listen to heavy metal, play on games consoles and do things that people my age shouldn't. But as my own children say I was doing those things before they did - and when I'm online I get messages of respect. People ask me questions and I respond.

Back in the sixties no one spoke to the old guy - maybe, he just enjoyed that atmosphere and the rock n roll music on the jukebox - it's just that we never asked.

They say that Orpington High Street has changed. Well, places like people do over time. The halfway house in Tubbenden Lane has gone; so, too, has Central Electrics in the High Street where I bought records; Woolworths too but I can still hear the flower seller telling me his wares are nice and fresh; Divs has gone and the old, dark comic exchange shop opposite Chislehurst Road. And the Commodore Cinema now replaced by a burger bar - most photos of that cinema say that it was showing 'The Creatures That Time Forgot' - except that we have not forgotten those times.

People and places change - that's life and that is what I enjoy - age has nothing to do with it.

Saturday, 8 November 2014


Go to Call Of Duty's Facebook page and 99% of the comments cry out that the franchise is dead.
For something that is 'dead' the midnight launch on the 3rd November seemed to be well attended and I was told that the version for the PS4 outsold those for the Xbox.

Whatever the view 'Advanced Warfare' came from Sledgehammer Games who were behind another CoD title 'Modern Warfare 3' (and is the first CoD game that I played.

'Advanced Warfare' is set in the future (2059) and follows the hero, Mitchell, from the chaos of Seoul, South Korea that has been attacked by troops from North Korea. Mitchell and his mate, Will Irons, are caught out while planting an explosive device on a rocket launcher. Will dies and Mitchell loses his left arm. Discharged from the Army, Mitchell is given the opportunity of a second chance by Will's father who owns the Atlas Corporation - a private military that goes anywhere for the highest bidder. This character is voiced by Kevin Spacey and the well constructed CGI is more than just a Spacey look a like.

The job in hand is to hunt down and kill a terrorist known as Hades. To do this Mitchell becomes part of a squad run by Gideon and Joker, his number 2. Although missions are completed I couldn't help but feel that something darker lurked beneath - and, yes, I have reached that point of the game where my suspicions were confirmed.

So for story construction there are no complaints and character development is excellent.

So far so good but there is a tiny problem with the gameplay with tiny being the operative word. There are instances when a series of buttons need to be pushed in order to advance the sequence. At one point the prompt looks like it is the front of the headlight; the second a logo on the base of the armoured windscreen. This was so small that I had to get close to the tv screen just to make it out. Messes up the flow of the gameplay with too many repeats to locate what is required.

Multiplayer is fun. Loaded with jetpacks on eco-skeletons the soldiers fly through the air with the greatest of ease. But it does not take long for the novelty to wear off. It is not like 'Titanfall', as many suggest - no Titans or wall running for starters - but the similarity is there. Having had the benefit of contextual lean on 'Ghosts' this way of looking around corners is absent - so, too, is 'Squads' which was a handy 'training ground' on 'Ghosts'.

And there, I think, there lies a problem with the Call Of Duty franchise is this lack of consistency - new ideas that occur in one game does not continue with the next.

Another problem is that with the introduction of the Xbox One I have had a problem with Activision games. Halfway through a multiplayer match the screen would go blank and then I would get a message telling me that I had to have a Xbox Live network to play 'Call Of Duty: Ghosts. My grandson had the same problem with the Activision/Bungie 'Destiny'. So  I avoid Activision games on my Xbox. Which brings this back to the beginning and comments made on the Facebook page for Call Of Duty. The real issues, it would appear, come with servers and hackers a subject that has yet to be addressed - no point in having a Facebook page and remain unresponsive to these complaints.

As for 'Call Of Duty: Advanced Warfare' - I enjoy the game and, so far, the multiplayer.

Saturday, 1 November 2014

WWE2K15 (video game)

The con is on.

The version for Xbox One and PS4 should have come out on the 31st October - but the release date has been put back. Shades of November 2013 when the new generation games like 'Watchdogs' and 'Drive Club' were due to be released with the new consoles. The latter has only just been released in the last few weeks by which time I had lost interest. And all the waiting for the other proved to be just another GTA clone.

Still and back to WWE2K15 - at least there was a version of the game available for the Xbox 360 and the PS3. So, I thought, I would rent a copy. I knew that I wouldn't see all the refinements but there were reassurances by developers 2K and the usual hype filled magazines who had 'hands on' that the gameplay had been improved. Lessons, they said, had been learned. I was left with the impression that both generation games were identical though.

As soon as the disc loaded I thought that I had put the wrong one in. The promised My Career mode wasn't there; the creation mode was the same as in the previous years and the modes were the same. This could well have been WWE2K14 or 13 (when it was in the hands of the unimaginative THQ who churned out the same game like forever). It looks as though 2K is following on.

All I can say is that having seen the future and come to the conclusion that today is the same as yesterday - I have cancelled my pre-order for the next gen version.

Saturday, 25 October 2014


If there is one racing game to play this year then Forza Horizon 2 is that game. Open world driving to six locations set against the lush countryside of France and Italy.

From the outset as the ferry docks and you drive a Lamborghini Huracan from the shadows out into the blinding Continental sunshine there is that feeling that something special is coming. A race to the Horizon Festival that is the hub of all that follows - where organiser, Ben, greets you and gives you the offer of three rides. It is back to where you started with four types of race before you get the chance to race that Huracan against Italy's version of the Red Arrows - once complete you get to keep the car.
There are four more similar challenges - race a steam train, beat 37 hot air balloons, chase a crop duster and, best of all, run down a cargo plane (this is scary as this plane is coming in to land over the top of you).

Okay, so that is just the tip of the iceberg.

The more championships you win gets you to a finale and as you think that that is it - all you have done is reached the end of Part One; Part two sees Ben decide to join in which leads to a second Finale where you have to beat him. Even then the game has not come to an end because there is a nice fat achievement to be picked up when you have completed 168 championships.
Added into the package are head to head racing; rivals' times to beat; reward boards to discover and smash - Forza Horizon 2 is an endless game.
Even the races are no longer confined to the usual stick to the road route - driving a Ford Raptor off road through a field of lavender or red poppies; or a dirt track in a rally car you 'feel' every bump and grind.

This game comes from Playground Games (based in Cambridge) for Turn 10 creators of Forza. A couple of years back the first Horizon was set in the scenic countryside of Colorado where you raced against some obnoxious characters. Happy to say that they have gone.
Despite the addictive gameplay there are a couple of quibbles - the off road Cross Country is in need of better sign posting; and sometimes I have found that even though having gone through the centre of a checkpoint the computer says that I missed it and the penalty is being put a fair way back from last place (if that happens then just click re-start).

A lot of work has gone into this game from the scenery down to the cars themselves. Classic racers through rally and monsters to everyday saloons; retro and modern American muscle cars - this is a world where you can live the dream in endless fun. And the weather fluctuates between hot cloudless days to the crack of thunder that heralds a downpour and when the rain has gone and the sun starts to shine a rainbow appears.

So where next? May I suggest that as motor racing comes to the streets of Coventry as it has done before in London that the UK could be a good location.

There is an Xbox 360 version from Sumo but it is a different game style.

Tuesday, 14 October 2014


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Thursday, 18 September 2014


Tucked away in our house is an old, black solicitor's Will box. Once upon a time it held things like birth and marriage certificates but nowadays just filled with bits and pieces. So, out of curiosity we decided to empty it and see what it contained - and, yes, mostly memorabilia like my dad's R.A.F. cap badge - some photos of the ships that hunted the German battleship 'Bismarck' but buried at the bottom was an envelope with two floppy discs inside.

The discovery of floppy discs were nothing new. I had already found a few, some years back with a couple of started westerns, a fantasy style story and a small collection of short stories. Expecting more of the same I connected my external disk drive to my laptop and fed the first disc in.

Back in the early Sixties I wrote a book called 'The Rebel' which told the story a young Rocker in the aftermath to the Mods vs Rockers beach battles at Brighton, Hastings and Margate. As it was written at the time it was dead accurate. I had been to Brighton that Bank Holiday so I knew what happened and how it was reported in the papers.

Agents who read the finished novel thought that while the writing was good I needed to do more research and get my facts right. It was even suggested that I read some of the newspaper accounts of the time. And this could be done via various newspaper archives. The other problem was that the hero was wrong. Mick Hood (the hero) worked in an office - he should have been a factory worker at best or a manual labourer.

The Rocker would always be type-cast as the forever baddie. Read comics of the day and beyond they were always there to bully or disrupt until the 'goodie' sent them packing.

So there was the book still there only, at some stage, I had taken the time to type it all out and save it to a disc. A book written fifty years ago, finally buried twenty years ago in an old will box. I say twenty years ago as my wife thinks that may have been when we bought out first computer.

The other disc contained a story that left me a little gobsmacked. The reason for this is that it didn't dawn of me that I had ever committed this to paper. I can recall that it was an idea, at the time. There are two main characters who first appear in 'The Rebel' but this time the timescale is greater - 1958 to mid Sixties. What is poignant about this is a) I know the girl's story; b) I know how the boy re-acts because it echoes mine. Child abuse was not headline news back in the fifties and sixties (I say that more in relation to the book's setting) and, therefore, I can see that could be why the novel was never finished.

Maybe, it was the criticism of the first book that put me off - or, far more of a possibility, that such a story would be unacceptable at the time. That things like abortion were mentioned in novels like Bill Naughton's 'Alfie' or Nell Dunn's 'Up The Junction' or the attempt in the bath scene from 'Saturday Night And Sunday Morning' - these are sort of glossed over. Not like when a girl turns up at your front door with blood stained jeans, sweating and out of breath because she had nowhere else to go - and why, because her mother had yanked out the foetus with the hook of a wire coathanger.

And while I may smile at the at the way that the two books read they do need a lot of revising without losing the political incorrectness of the period. I hate that 'accurate of the period' tag when the language and attitudes of the time say different.

The world has moved on since those two books were written. The facts behind both are better known and having watched a documentary recently about the Mods and Rockers where it was shown that the first novel was closer to the truth - then I feel confident that I can resurrect it. As for the second - tempted - but time will tell.

Friday, 29 August 2014


Way back when Lara Croft hit the games consoles she did so on the Playstation One. From that moment on Crystal Dynamics started one of the biggest grossing game franchises that spawned adds and two movies.
Over the years the adventures of Lara Croft have evolved to the point where, under Square Enix, Tomb Raider was re-invented without losing her appeal. Old and new generations of gamers were united in their approval.
So.... a sequel was on the cards.
A trailer gave some inkling about Lara Croft's next adventure...about becoming 'the person that was meant to be'.

Then at Gamescom 2014 came to big announcement...."Rise Of The Tomb Raider" was to be an Xbox console exclusive.


Square Enix says that their fan base is important to them BUT the deal with Microsoft will enable the developer to invest more money into the next generation of gaming.

Much is written on the net about this....but I don't believe, for one minute, that developers do really care about their fan-base. It is all about the money (except no one likes to say it out loud).

What it really comes down to is that the Xbox One is still being outsold by Sony's Playstation 4 (and ditto is happening with the Xbox 360 by the PS3). What better way for Microsoft to attempt to turn the situation around than by harnessing one of the top game franchises.

Truth is that this situation will have no winners - only losers.

I doubt if Xbox sales will improve....and they want to build a community where your friends can jump into your game whether they own it or not.

Square Enix will not garner the expected profits and their rep will drop.  Will the fans go for a 'Tomb Raider 3' should it come back to it's real home on the Sony Playstation.

Finally, the fans....neglect them too much and they will become unforgiving. It is one thing for developers to realise their dreams and go ahead and do their own thing. And while developers go 'yay, we done it' nothing is achieved when the fans don't part with their cash.