Taking the Xbox 360 route

Xbox 360

As you can tell by my previous post, I wasn’t that keen on Sony’s next generation console, the PlayStation 3. The high cost and the lack of some serious games at this moment of time made me switch sides to Microsoft.

When the Xbox 360 was first release back in 2005, I wasn’t that interested as I enjoyed the wide range of games available on my PlayStation 2. But over time, I began to appreciate the quality of the games on offer and was impressed by what it can do (such as online play and downloadable features).

By purchasing the Xbox 360 (the Premium version with wireless controllers and 20-gigabyte Hard Drive), I finally understand what the fuss was all about with this video game system.

It is a fantastic console and to play games in near high definition (1080i) is amazing. I am aware that there will be a new version of the Xbox 360 (named Elite, which has a bigger capacity Hard Drive and HDMI port) will be coming soon. But after reading some articles online, the Elite machine doesn’t offer True High Definition as the HDMI only supports 1.2 (unlike the PlayStation 3 with 1.3). In addition, the new colour scheme – black – means it costs more…

Nevertheless, I am happy with what I have right now. I have yet to connect myself to the Xbox Live Marketplace, as I will need to purchase that so-called ‘Gold’ membership (it cost £40 every twelve months). Plus, I will need to purchase a special wireless adapter for online play (due to the router being in the lounge and the Xbox 360 upstairs).

As for what kind of games I am playing, I have a choice of six quality titles to enjoy.

The most addictive game right now is Gears Of War. It looks absolutely gorgeous and the game play is so absorbing. Damn addictive and initially I was rubbish, as I kept on dying… But after playing a few hours, I became use to the style of playing this great action game by considering how valuable hiding is!

Virtua Tennis 3 is another fine game. I used to play this to death on my Sega Dreamcast and with this latest version the simple game playing experience is still there. The visuals certain look impressive – very close to being photo realistic.

Speaking of photo realistic, Project Gotham Racing 3 features 80 of the most exotic sports cars. The ability to race around the streets of New York, Tokyo and central London is a unique experience and with the great graphics, you can spot the familiar landmarks as you race past them at over 180mph!

Test Drive Unlimited is another racing game that I like to play and even though I remember playing Test Drive II on my faithful Amiga 1200 back in the early 90s(!) to race a wide variety of cars on an island with over 1000 miles to drive on is simply unbelievable.

But for pure sensation, the opportunity to use everyday objects to kill a shopping mall filled with zombies is a strange but satisfying experience. Dead Rising reminds me of Powerstone (using items lying next to you as weapons) crosses between the horror of Resident Evil.

And last in my gaming collection is Crackdown, which is a clone of True Crime: Streets of LA. I don’t understand what I have to do as the gaming environment is pretty huge and they’re so many people to shoot or run over!

Currently, I am playing all these great games on a small CRT television set. Luckily, it supports 60 MHz. But I am planning to get a nice Samsung HDTV soon. This will make a big difference when playing in high definition.

PlayStation 3 is launched… but I’m not interested

PlayStation 3 controller

At last! Sony’s next generation console is finally on sale in Europe and despite the high price of four hundred and twenty five pounds, I am not that enthusiastic to rush out and buy one.

Why not? I’ve played many of the launch games available on the PlayStation 3 and wasn’t all that impressed. Sure, it looks gorgeous when you hook it up to a massive high definition television set but if you look beyond the visuals, the game play hasn’t moved on since the PlayStation 2 days…

Take for example, Formula One Championship Edition. I’m a big fan of video games based on my favourite sport and after playing this on a 62-inch HDTV I felt the game playing experience all too familiar… In fact, it was exactly the same game as F1 06 on the PS2! Just more pretty that’s all.

Ridge Racer 7 was another game I’ve played. Powersliding these outrageous racing cars is actually quite good fun but I’ve seen it all before… on a PSP.

Sorry to sound all-negative so far in my post, but I expected more from a console that is supposedly the most powerful on the market.

It’s funny to think that I did pre-order this machine months before the Japanese launch and now, that day has finally arrive for European gamers.

The price is certainly off-putting and I don’t see the justification of buying an expensive games console just because Sony are moving into a new digital format with Blu-ray. If there wasn’t a Blu-ray drive, then it will be significantly cheaper.

In addition, the news that the European (PAL) PlayStation 3 will use firmware updates to run old PlayStation 2 games is not great. Without the necessary hardware (the Emotion Engine) to emulate the PS2 games in its original form, the games will feel and look different (or at worst, won’t work at all).

As for the current games on offer, none of them look that special – graphics and game play wise – apart from MotorStorm. The killer or triple ‘A’ titles have yet to appear e.g. Metal Gear Solid 4 and Gran Turismo 5. So the need to buy one on launch day is not there.

I would rather buy the Xbox 360 instead. Got the Nintendo Wii and even though it’s a fantastic little console, there aren’t any new games available on the system since it was launch. The Xbox 360 has a wide range of great games including Gears of War and Dead Rising and I look forward to buying this new console to satisfy my needs.

Maybe if there is a price cut or more suitable games are out on the PlayStation 3, then I will buy one. But for now, I will say no thanks.

Ferrari racing cars takes to the streets in Shell advert

Ferrari & Shell advert

Forgot about the ‘Honda Impossible Dream’ television commercial, this is truly an impressive advert featuring gorgeous Ferrari Formula One racing cars.

This two-minute video has become the most expensive television advert ever created. Fuel supplier Shell has filmed a variety of historic Ferrari racing cars blasting through the streets of some of the world’s greatest cities including Rome, Monte Carlo, Rio, Sydney, New York and Hong Kong.

Simply entitled ‘Circuit’, this spectacular commercial celebrates 60 years of Shell and Ferrari working together. The incredibly vivid commercial is the brainchild of Partizan’s Antoine Bardou Jacquet and producer David Stewart.

The best part is the sound. Fantastic!


Complaints over Elisha Cuthbert’s poster

Elisha Cuthbert Captivity

Elisha Cuthbert’s new horror movie Captivity has received a string of complaints due to a set of disturbing posters advertising the film.

The adverts show a panel of photographs of actress Elisha Cuthbert being abducted, confined, tortured, and killed. People felt the images of this young woman were too graphic and insisted they be ripped down.

The film producers insist the billboards went up by mistake, and have agreed to pay for the removal of the ads in Los Angeles and New York City.

How did this happen? Production house After Dark Films CEO Courtney Solomon explains that the wrong files were sent to the printer, who then passed them on to the billboard company without approval from any executives…

Despite this PR disaster, I don’t think this film will be any good. A real shame as Elisha is a talented actress and deserves so much better.

Raikkonen takes first win of the season

Kimi Raikkonen Melbourne 2007

Kimi Raikkonen made a perfect start to the season with a dominant lights-to-flag win in Melbourne. The Finn has become the first Ferrari driver since Nigel Mansell in 1989 to win on his debut with the legendary Italian team on Sunday, driving faultlessly in the season-opening Australian Grand Prix. Kimi’s only problems were one minor off when he lost concentration on lap 46, and the lack of a radio throughout the race.

“The weekend has been very good, but today the race was not that easy,” he said. “Maybe it looked like it but I didn’t have the radio as it stopped working before the start, so it was quite complicated. But we had our plan so I knew what had to do even if it was not the ideal situation.”

As Kimi disappeared in the distance, setting fastest laps throughout the race, the focus of attention was the impressive display of Lewis Hamilton in the McLaren. Despite starting in fourth position behind his team-mate Fernando Alonso, he pulled off a superb move by driving around the outside of a fast-starting Robert Kubica (BMW-Sauber) and Alonso to take third. Lewis even led the Grand Prix for a short while when Raikkonen made his first pit stop.

To finish third in only his first race as a Formula One driver is hugely impressive. Lewis matches the remarkable achievement set by Jacques Villeneuve, when the French-Canadian finished his first Grand Prix on the podium back in 1996. There is no doubt that Hamilton could be a world champion in the near future, as McLaren’s CEO Martin Whitmarsh told reporters after the race.

“I think the truth is that the pressure that Lewis had on him, the media quite obviously take a phenomenal interest in Lewis and what he has achieved so far, but he still had to come here and deliver.

“If he had flopped today and made a mistake then we all know what the headlines would have looked like.

“To come through that, make a good start, be out-jumped by the BMWs and respond to that, react, have the presence of mind to react and get to the outside line, execute without taking risks the overtaking he did at the first corner was fantastic.

“Throughout the race he had enormous pressure, he didn’t let that tell and did a fantastic job. Anyone who is here now must know we are at the start of a career that is going to be phenomenal.

“He will be a world champion, it is just a question of time now.”

I suspect Hamilton is taking all in his stride and that first win will come soon enough. Hopefully by next year, with a full season’s experience under his belt, Lewis can challenge for title honours. As for now, he should be pleased by his result.

Even though McLaren didn’t win the race, Ron Dennis should be satisfied with the result with double world champion Fernando Alonso and Hamilton finishing in second and third respectively. It is clear that the Ferrari is the fastest car and it will be a fascinating if the team can improve the car’s performance in the next Grand Prix.

For the Spaniard, second place was the best he could achieve and although he was happy with the result, Alonso feels that the team will need to work hard to catch Ferrari.

“I think it has been a good weekend and now I think with the final result we have to be pleased,” said Alonso, whose fastest lap was over a second slower than Kimi Raikkonen’s.

“Ferrari were a bit too quick for us today but we have to take the maximum points from here, and second place is a good place to start.

“We need to work more if we want to win races, but we show today and proved that we are here to win and not just race and relax. We showed a good potential and I’m looking forward to the next one.”

As for the rest, Nick Heidfeld followed up to his second row start with a solid fourth in the BMW-Sauber, though it was a bittersweet result for the team as Kubica suffered mechanical problems when fifth was on the cards.

That place ultimately fell to Giancarlo Fisichella, but only just. The Italian finished ahead of the closing Felipe Massa by a small margin of three-tenths of a second. The Brazilian recovered strongly despite starting at the back of the grid after taking an engine change. He even suffered the embarrassment of being lapped by his team-mate Raikkonen during the race.

The final points position fell to Nico Rosberg and Ralf Schumacher, for Williams-Toyota and Toyota respectively.

Most disappointed drive in the race? Two drivers spring to mind – Jenson Button and Formula One rookie Heikki Kovalainen. The former struggled in that nasty Honda with a never ending problem of understeer. Plus it didn’t help that he received a drive-through penalty when speeding in the pit lane. To finish P15 was a major disappointment for the driver and team.

But at least he didn’t make any mistakes on track, unlike Kovalainen. The Finn had too many ‘wild’ moments and even had a high-speed 360 degree spin on the first corner. Team boss Flavio Briatore wasn’t impressed by his performance, telling reporters that he was “rubbish”.

Hopefully, by the next race Heikki can learn from his errors and improve on his performance.

But there is no doubt that the star of the Australian Grand Prix weekend was Lewis Hamilton. He may have finished on the bottom step of the podium, but greater things will come his way and don’t be surprise if the young Brit finishes ahead of everyone including the two championship contenders of Raikkonen and Alonso.

The championship now takes a three-week break but all the teams will use this free time in testing their cars at Sepang, the scene of the Malaysian Grand Prix. Can Ferrari continue with that impressive form by winning the next race? Or can McLaren challenge them for top honours? The battle continues on April 8th.

Race results from Albert Park

1. RAIKKONEN Ferrari 1 hr 25 mins 28.770 secs
2. ALONSO McLaren +7.2s
3. HAMILTON McLaren +18.5s
4. HEIDFELD BMW +38.7s
5. FISICHELLA Renault +66.4s
6. MASSA Ferrari +66.8s
7. ROSBERG Williams +1 lap
8. SCHUMACHER Toyota +1 lap
9. TRULLI Toyota +1 lap
10. KOVALAINEN Renault +1 lap
11. BARRICHELLO Honda +1 lap
12. SATO Super Aguri +1 lap
13. WEBBER Red Bull +1 lap
14. LIUZZI Toro Rosso +1 lap
15. BUTTON Honda +1 lap
16. DAVIDSON Super Aguri +2 lap
17. SUTIL Spyker +2 lap
R. WURZ Williams +10 laps
R. COULTHARD Red Bull +10 laps
R. KUBICA BMW +22 laps
R. SPEED Toro Rosso +30 laps
R. ALBERS Spyker +48 laps

Fastest Lap: RAIKKONEN 1 min. 25.235 secs

Kimi Raikkonen’s first pole position for Ferrari

Kimi Raikkonen Ferrari Australian GP

Finland’s Kimi Raikkonen will start tomorrow’s season-opening Australian Grand Prix with a commanding pole position with his new Ferrari team.

The fastest driver in Formula One lived up to his expectation with a stunning time around the Albert Park circuit. The Finn recorded a time of one minute, 26.072 seconds, edging out his main championship rival Fernando Alonso by four-tenths of a second.

He thus became the first debutant Ferrari driver to take pole position since Juan Manuel Fangio back in 1956.

“Today we spent time getting a good set-up on car,” Raikkonen said. “For one lap it was still not ideal, not for me at least, but the main thing is it was quick enough. We have a good race package, so I am more confident for the race than for qualifying. This can be quite a funny race, but we’ll do our best and hope to win.”

Even though the double world champion was out-paced in both session one and two in the one-hour qualifying round, Alonso did the job to qualify his McLaren in second place, pushing the impressive Lewis Hamilton down to fourth – with BMW Sauber’s Nick Heidfeld just in front of the GP2 champion with P3.

Despite that, Hamilton’s performance in his first weekend as a Formula One driver is superb. He has been the faster driver in the McLaren MP4-22 and he even forced his team-mate to push extra hard to stay ahead. A possible podium is on the cards in the race.

As for the Spaniard, he is still searching for that confidence in the car but is happy to line up on the front row. Alonso said: “I think at end we are there and to start where we are is fantastic news for the team. They have made a huge step forward since last year and we need say thanks to team. I really hope it will be a close race tomorrow, and it can be very interesting; we have been very competitive all weekend.”

It seems BMW Sauber are the major surprise in Formula One 2007, with Heidfeld in a fantastic third with Robert Kubica in fifth. It goes to show that the team’s impressive winter testing performance wasn’t a one off and it is a sign of genuine pace with the new F1.07 chassis.

Renault’s Giancarlo Fisichella will start in sixth ahead of hometown hero Mark Webber in the Red Bull. And against expectations, came the Toyotas of Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher respectively. Both of them had initial dramas: Trulli inadvertently dragged a jack all down the pit lane and then on to the track when he first went out, for which the team were subsequently fined €2000; Schumacher had a tyre problem and had to creep back to the pits before getting going again.

And rounding up the top ten is Super Aguri’s Takamo Sato. Yes, the Japanese team and driver went though into the shoot-out pole position session beating the works Honda team in the process!

It is an amazing achievement by Super Aguri. A year ago, the team was lucky enough to make the grid and had to borrow a show car from a local shopping mall to take part in the event. Now, the Japanese team are more competitive, despite running a controversial ‘shared’ chassis based on the 2006 Honda car. Sato’s team-mate, Anthony Davidson failed to make through the third session. Nevertheless, the Honda B-team is faster and more balanced than the Honda A-team. Both Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello struggled in qualifying and will line up in a disappointing P14 and P17 respectively.

As for Felipe Massa, in the other Ferrari, the Brazilian suffered a gearbox problem in the second session. It was a shame that he couldn’t challenge Kimi for pole position, as that would be something to behold! Instead, we will see an exciting charge from P16 in the Grand Prix.

So an exciting start to the first round of the new season with the two main championship contenders up front. Can Kimi Raikkonen win his first race for Ferrari? Can Fernando Alonso start off his championship defence in style or will his new team-mate Lewis Hamilton achieve the ultimate prize of winning his first Grand Prix?

The grid for the Australian Grand Prix

1. RAIKKONEN Ferrari 1:26.072
2. ALONSO McLaren 1:26.493
3. HEIDFELD BMW 1:26.556
4. HAMILTON McLaren 1:26.755
5. KUBICA BMW 1:27.347
6. FISICHELLA Renault 1:27.634
7. WEBBER Red Bull 1:27.934
8. TRULLI Toyota 1:28.404
9. SCHUMACHER Toyota 1:28.692
10. SATO Super Aguri 1:28.871
11. DAVIDSON Super Aguri 1:26.909
12. ROSBERG Williams 1:26.914
13. KOVALAINEN Renault 1:26.964
14. BUTTON Honda 1:27.264
15. WURZ Williams 1:27.393
16. MASSA Ferrari 1:26.712
17. BARRICHELLO Honda 1:27.679
18. SPEED Toro Rosso 1:28.305
19. COULTHARD Red Bull 1:28.579
20. LIUZZI Toro Rosso 1:29.267
21. SUTIL Spyker 1:29.339
22. ALBERS Spyker 1:31.932

Playing with The Sims

The Sims 2

I haven’t played The Sims 2 for quite some time – around two years – but since I have purchased all the expansion packs, I’ve decided to install all these onto my PC and experience the new game playing features in my favourite life simulation video game.

Playing The Sims 2 is a fantastic experience. I love the social interaction by controlling each of the little characters. Yes, sometimes I can be a bit cruel by finding amusing ways to kill off unwanted Sims… But it is part of the game’s charm. The ability to manipulate each Sim to your own action in making friends, working in jobs and buying stuff is part of the appeal.

The latest expansion pack is Seasons and for the first time ever, the Sims environment is affected by different weather conditions. In the past, a typical day in the life of a Sim is usually bright and sunny… Pretty dull to be honest, but this new feature gives a realistic feel to the changing of the four seasons.

In addition to the Seasons, the ability to have pets brings a whole new set of game play to the popular Sims. I believe the success of Nintendogs on the Nintendo DS has made EA (the developers of the game) to add this in to make it even more lifelike. The AI of the dogs and cats are pretty impressive, mimicking the behaviour of the real life animal (from scratching the furniture to chasing the postman)!

One thing for sure, without the lasting appeal of The Sims, I wouldn’t have got into Animal Crossing! Both of these games are similar in concept. Don’t have any goals to complete and yet, compelling to play and addictive.

Loeb takes commanding victory in Mexico

Loeb Rally Mexico

Sébastien Loeb repeated his 2006 rally victory with a dominant display in his new Citroen C4.

The reigning champion finished with a comfortable margin (around 56 seconds) ahead of championship rivals Marcus Grönholm and Mikko Hirvonen.

Loeb’s victory on the Rally of Mexico means that he and co-driver Daniel Elena have now notched thirty WRC victories.

“For Daniel and me, this is our 30th WRC win together. That’s obviously nice but I’m especially pleased with our run here this weekend and what it promises for the upcoming rallies.”

“The car was really good,” added Loeb. “Since Monte Carlo we were waiting for this event as the first gravel rally of the season. We have to wait for this rally to see how it performed. The car was perfect. No problems and a good feeling.”

Early leader Petter Solberg was disappointed to retire in the new 2007 Subaru, but the team were happy by the performance of the brand new Impreza, with Solberg’s team-mate Chris Atkinson running in the top three for most of day one.

The next round in the WRC is Portugal at the end of the month. Can anybody stop Loeb now that he is back in front?

Ghost Rider

Ghost Rider

Yet another movie adapted from Marvel Comics. Ghost Rider tells a story of a superstar motorcycle stunt rider named Johnny Blaze (played by Nicolas Cage). Who strikes a deal with the devil to save his dying father (who is suffering from cancer) with his immortal soul.

When his father was killed in a stunt, the young Johnny was filled with emotional pain that he decided to run away, leaving his childhood sweetheart Roxanne Simpson (the sexy Eva Mendes) behind.

Years later, Johnny’s path crosses again with Roxanne, now a TV news reporter along with the devil – the fearsome Mephistopheles (Easy Rider’s Peter Fonda) – who offers to release Johnny’s soul if he becomes the fiery and ruthless Ghost Rider, a supernatural agent of vengeance and justice, who happens to have a skull on fire!

His only hopes of getting his soul back is to kill Mephistopheles’ own son, Blackheart, who plans to displace his father and create a new hell even more terrifying than the old one.

Ghost Rider is an enjoyable movie and director Mark Steven Johnson has done a creditable job in adapting a character from the comics onto the big screen. As for Cage, some believe he was too old to play the role, but the actor has managed to pull it off with some style and substance.

The main highlight was the chase scene in downtime Melbourne, when the Ghost Rider leads the police force over bridges, under water, down dark and narrow alleyways and even up the side of a skyscraper!

The visual effects are also impressive, creating a stunning look to the fiery Ghost Rider.

A fun and amusing movie that will appeal to fans of the series and the average moviegoers. And yes, it won’t generate the same box office success compared to Marvel’s other big movie – Spider-Man – but as an action film in its own right, it’s certainly entertaining.

“Save the cheerleader, save the world”


Thanks to an advice from a good friend, I have become addicted to Heroes. This exciting new television drama series is taking America by storm. Heroes tells a story of several people who “thought they were like everyone else… until they woke with incredible abilities” such as telepathy, time travel and flight. These people soon realize they have a role in preventing a catastrophe and saving mankind.

The series loosely follows the writing style of American comics by doing short, multi-episode story arcs that build upon a larger, more encompassing arc.

The concept is similar to X-Men but unlike the comic books and movies, Heroes is set in a realistic time period in which ordinary people possess special powers and abilities.

Each episode ends in a dramatic cliffhanger, teasing the viewer. It works very effectively, as I couldn’t stop watching the following episodes to see what fate had in store.

I’m not surprised that Heroes is beating 24 in the ratings (as both shows are on the same time in the US), but in terms of storyline, it feels more fresh and interesting than a man who runs around shooting terrorists in a single day!

As for the legendary quote of “Save the cheerleader, save the world”, one of the leading characters is a high school cheerleader whose ultimate fate is tied to the end of the entire world…