Category Archives: review

Halo 4

Some thoughts on the single-player campaign (because fuck paying for Xbox Live Gold with the amount I’ve been playing the Xbox recently):

  • Great art and rendering technology
  • Impressive engine cut-scenes (especially characters and skin-shaders / lighting)
  • Difficulty was manageable but quite frustrating on Heroic (yes, I’m terrible). After switching to Normal I actually had some fun. The shield scaling for Heroic feels slightly off, everything just takes way too many hits to kill (I’m looking at you, Watchers). Also, it feels as if the AI cheats and moves enemies as soon as I have a nice shot lined up. Heroic and Legendary would probably be fun in coop though.
  • I never thought I’d say this, but I feel that there’s too many weapon options. Human, Covenant and Prothean versions of pretty much everything. Of course there’s subtle differences between them all, but a lot feel rather pointless.
  • The levels themselves were not particularly memorable, but the reconfigurable geometry was a nice idea (although I’m not sure it really added anything). The Forerunner architecture reminded me of the style of P.N.03, a game I still dearly miss a sequel to. Too often the flow degenerates to “Go somewhere for some reason that only makes sense if you played all games 5 times and read all the books, and then do the same thing 2 to 3 times to progress” (go through portals, push buttons, activate light-bridges). Mostly push convenient buttons / Cortana insertion points.
  • As alluded to in the previous point, it feels to me as if the story is getting worse and worse with each game (ODST and Reach sort of aside): Halo 1 and 2’s was fine, simple Humans against aliens (with the Flood sort of popping up) and some mystery as to the forerunners / Halo rings. Now we have all sorts wawa that feels more like Matrix 2 and 3, instead of 1 (Reclaimer, Mantle, Composer, Didact, Librarian, …). All this Jesus-complex, 1000s of years leading up to Master Chief (and his armour!) and then on-the-spot gene-manipulation bullshit just went over the top. The mystery (and awe) is sort of gone.

In summary, an above average single-player game with a convoluted story that grasps higher than it can reach, with slightly repetitive level design that is saved by excellent tech and me wanting to see the next cut-scene (even if it is mostly gibberish). Nonetheless, I still hope there’s more Master Chief (and Cortana). 🙂

Zoë Keating – Into the Trees

Ever since I’d stumbled upon her live performance of Escape Artist for Wired, I’ve been looking forward to be able to actually buy the song. Now the album it’s on, called “Into the Trees”, is out. =)
It’s full of instrumental cello music, layered very deeply using things like loop-pedals (a bit like DubFX for example) and other techno-thingamajigs.
Nice mixtures of sweeping arrangements with rhythms and staccato / picked sequences, reminds me of the music used in Braid in places.

Highly recommended. Listen / buy here.

Joe Abercrombie – Best Served Cold

It’s as enjoyable as the “First Law” trilogy; he stills has that fascination for broken / crippled characters (but as every reviewer mentioned them it’s only natural he sticks to what’s been working) — and unsurprisingly this book is quite similar to his others.
2/3rds of the book along, there is some sort of plot twist (which is presented in a nifty fashion) but seems to have no basis in the motivation of the characters (i.e. they seem to act contrarian to their interior motivations only to serve the slight twist that has some repercussions later on).
Anyway, don’t let that stop you, it’s still a rather gory and dirty fantasy romp. The overall world / setting is one I quite enjoy, especially the background with the Valint & Balk vs the prophet and his eaters.

Regina Spektor – Far (+misc)

Piano-pop music (a bit similar to Ben Folds). Really like the album, but the incessant repetition of some of the lyrics goes on my nerves, as do the Hallelujahs.
Stand-outs: Dance Anthem of the 80’s, Eet, The Calculation.

Other music I’ve recently picked up:
65daysofstatic – The Fall of Math
The Tings Tings – We Started Nothing
Anna Ternheim – Seperation Road
Laura Marling – Alas I Cannot Swim

Solid-State Drives and You

While solid-state drives (SSDs) seem to be all the rage in net-/laptops at the moment, most of their advantages (mostly negligible access times) also make sense for a desktop system, whereas their disadvantages (price / small size) are not as constricting as you can have multiple physical discs in a desktop system.
I’ve bought a 64GB SLC SSD drive in a 3.5″ SATA version for my Mac Pro and use it solely as an OS and applications drive, while my home-directory (where the bulk of my data obviously sits) is still on a normal, spacious hard-drive. The speed-up (in spite of Mac OS X’s already quite fast boot / application start-up times) is very noticeable.
The OS migration from the HDD to the SDD was very painless. I used Carbon Copy Cloner to copy everything but my username’s home directory, rebooted from the SSD, logged in as the user with administration privileges (which your everyday user account shouldn’t have) and changed the home-directory for my non-admin user (under System Preferences – Accounts – Right-Click on the account – Advanced Options – Home Directory).
Almost all applications (baring Xcode) cold-start approximately half-way through the first Dock-icon bounce and World of Warcraft flies with this setup. 🙂
If I didn’t need more than 64GB total space on my MacBook Pro, I’d also fit it with such an SSD drive without hesitation. But as it is, I need more space. Alas, when the next laptop is on the horizon I can definitely see myself shelling out for an SSD upgrade. Maybe mainboards should come with something like 64GB of on-board flash for use as operating system and application drive…