Well I’ve had an interesting week; the main thing was the release of the Empire Total War Demo on Steam, so I’ve been playing that far too much given how little content there actually is. A while ago I mentioned that I would be going to see Rise Against and that happened on Thursday when they played the Carling Academy in Birmingham, and it was awesome. The last addition to my frankly fantastic week was going down to Oxford yesterday for an Ethics conference, which was equally awesome but in a very different way.
But first of all the Empire Total War Demo: I’ll do a full review of the game when it comes out, maybe next week, but probably the week after (my life starts getting a little busy around now, so I don’t know how much time I’ll have to play it), so this will be fairly brief. I know that, given the fact that I have not bought a videogame in literally years, I am not up to date with the latest graphics so I’m not a great judge of these things, but it looks really, really, really nice! I mean all the people don’t all look like really unresponsive clones; they are actually slightly individual and interact with each other in melee combat. You can also destroy buildings on the battle map; yay for physics engines. Leaving graphics behind because frankly they’re pretty unimportant compared to things like gameplay; the battles feel a lot more realistic that previous Total War games. This is probably partly due to the fact that a bunch of people standing in a line shooting one another is far easier to replicate that the slightly more riotous affairs of ancient and medieval combat, even so there seems to be a remarkable high casualty rate; far more than in real life as far as I know (although 18th Century warfare was a pretty bloody affair). The inclusion of naval warfare is completely fantastic and the best idea Sega has had regarding the whole franchise (and that is saying a lot). The naval battles are probably more realistic that the land battles (although I would sort of expect that). They have done the controls really well which means that it is pretty simple to get the basics of controlling a large number of ships, which means you can quickly get down to actually fighting rather than spending many pencil snapping hours trying to master which controls are locked to which keys and how the hell you avoid sitting in the water and giving the enemy firing practice.
The problem is that there in only one sea battle and one land battle, so once you’ve mastered the controls, marvelled at the graphics a little and thrashed the arse off the computer you have very little to do but sit there and kick the arse of the computer in a slightly different way. You may also have noticed that I didn’t mention the campaign game at all. That is because there isn’t any in the demo, which is really annoying because that’s mostly what I play the Total War games for; the battles are nice, but they only really support the main part of the game and the reason why the Total War series is so fantastic. Seems odd then that they would leave it out of the demo, but hey, I’m not a developer, so what do I know? I can still complain that it makes the demo too short however. Now before you inundate me with emails and comments about how it’s a demo so it’s unlikely to be very long let me just say that the demo it literally 2 hours worth of gameplay if you’re new to the franchise, if not It’s probably less than that. You can redo the battles ad nauseam but to be honest repetition of the same thing is not an extension of gameplay, it’s just pointless repetition, like beating a dead horse just slightly more entertaining. I suppose it does a pretty good job if wetting your appetite and making you more likely to go out and buy the game when it comes out in 5 days time. Given that it’s so short you should be able to play through it before then so why not all download it now and then you can pay your money to the faceless corporation on March 4th having been completely won over by it. Go on, off you go. It’s on steam so you have no excuse.
On the subject of corporations, well not really, but I had to try to link this together somehow, I was bombarded with a whole evening of socialist propaganda from a bunch of dirty, unwashed Americans. No I didn’t go to a rally, although there was one yesterday, but more on that later. I am of course referring to the Rise Against gig I went to which, despite the excess of hippies and liberal socialists, was absolutely fantastic. I’m not going to pretend than most of Rise Against is not just a series of power chords with the occasional hammer on; I think I mentioned their chronic lack of variety last time a talked about them. When you combine this with the fact that I find it completely I possible to get behind their message; I think PETA are idiots and I really hate socialism, it is a great testament to their live act that I really enjoyed the gig. Their songs are samey but they’re so energetic and Rise Against play them so well that it doesn’t really matter. It may be somewhat hypocritical of me to really disagree with their world view and still provide it with monetary support, but for me, all they are is entertainment (that was a joke for Rise Against fans).
Of course Rise Against were not the only band to play; they were supported by The Flobots and Anti-Flag; both of whom where distinctly average. If you combined Linkin Park and Rage Against the Machine and turned down the quality considerably, you would have The Flobots. They did have a couple of redeeming features though; they had a really good female violinist. Not only was she probably the best musician on the stage at any time during the evening, she was also by far the best looking. Then again the competition was pretty rubbish; if she wasn’t there I would be giving the award to one of the guitars. Another plus The Flobots had was that some of their lyrics were so painful that they almost made me burst out laughing; then again it was rap, which is just really bad poetry put to music, so I’m unlikely to be impressed. One of their songs was interesting; they had a sign with IRAQ on and every line only had words beginning with I R A and Q (well they weren’t all that strict on the last one…). It was an interesting idea, but to be honest it was never likely to work; there just aren’t enough words that make sense together in that way to make a song than isn’t painfully forced. The other support act was Anti-flag, who get the crowd going and were slightly less painful than The Flobots, but I’d probably not rush to buy any of their music.
Any attempt to lead on from that onto the ethics conference I went to yesterday in Oxford would be as forced as The Flobots lyrics, so I’ll just move on. Yesterday I went to Oxford (which is the most awesome place on the planet or at least in England) for an Ethics conference for A-level students. I mentioned earlier that there was a rally, which there was. It wasn’t much of a rally really; about 5 people standing around with banners one of whom was yelling inane nonsense into a megaphone. There were more police on the street than actual protesters; all told it was pretty pathetic. The conference itself was pretty interesting, but I won’t go into the details because to be honest it I doubt you would care and it would be far too intellectual for a Saturday morning. It was thought provoking and I enjoyed it and I got to go to Oxford so it was a pretty damn fantastic end to a very good week in my life.