GTA IV Special Edition: A Preview

Just bought GTAIV (Second last set from Guerilla Games @ Serene Centre). It is really a beautiful piece of kit, with some really sweet swag. Top among them, a selection of songs from the GTAIV game. Next up, a WORKING safe deposit box, KEY and all, and a Duffel bag with the Rockstar Logo emblazoned upon it. An Art book rounds off this list of swag along with the game itself.

I am busy slapping my head right now as this afternoon, after seeing some news reports on the various games blogs on GTA’s release, I immediately picked up the phone and called to place a pick-up on the game. Cut to 9ish and I was the proud owner, courtesy of the Mom Sponsorship, of GTAIV.

When I popped back home, what should happen but I check my email and receive notice that someone was offering me a copy of GTAIV for review! *not that I wasn’t going to anyway, and my first impressions will be noted below* But hot DANG! I felt like I missed a train. But I am also an honest man. So. Yeah. Hem. Gimme something else instead? *COUGH Rock COUGH B… COUGH*

Upon inserting this video game into your console, you’re greeted with a typically Rockstar style montage of pictures and immediately after, you are thrown into the game. There is no “select new game, options etc’ screen at the start (though that could be because I button mashed alittle) and you’re thrown into an opening scene on a boat, and are introduced to Niko Ballic, an Eastern European fellow on his way to Liberty City to chase the big dream and eat sweet sweet American Pie. I must state at this point the credits are shown and you’re made to look at it like this is a movie’s Cold Open or something to that effect. It is stylistically quite marvelous and though done before, still hasn’t gotten old for me.

The visual style can be charecterised as slightly cartoonish, but with the gritty, almost painfully detailed style that has been the signature GTA look. And the graphics are simply stunning. A true LEAP from GTA’s previous iteration of San Andreas. Though one can tell that the Xbox 360 has certain slowdown issues even at the very beginning because I could see some stuttering frames as the camera panned across the beautiful vista of Liberty City’s skyline and waterfront. I am not sure the PS3 will have similar issues.

I played about 15 minutes of the game and I was hooked. The two charecters you meet are real pieces of work, with Nico and his cousin bantering and swearing at each other. You learn some basic moves and are immediately made to drive the cousin back to his home. The vehicle mechanics are still very GTA-y and are given to that floaty, physics- optional style that one either loves to mess around with or hates when he ends up in the water yet again. And the only problem I had at this very early stage with trying to get Nico to fight. I was taken out 10 minutes into the game, and well, that’s just me trying to jack some hudlums’ car. I didn’t fight back coz I hadn’t been taught yet how to defend myself. And sorta had to play by ear to figure it out. Which I did, much to the chagrin and eventual death of some poor little Russian lady sitting at the hospital.

All in all, a GREAT 15 minutes and this is going to be my last post before I fly off to Seoul. I cannot wait. Pics of Special Edition and swag included.

P.S. Those of you looking to pick up GTAIV yourselves but don’t have an Xbox are in for a treat. Microsoft is lowering the RRP of their Xbox 360 consoles. Elite will go for S$699, Pro for S$499 and Arcade for S$399. (Disclaimer: I was sent the press release for this price drop from MSFT.)


The Open Room

Two of Tech65’s best friends, Brian and Tania held their launch of The Open Room and my GOODNESS, it was as fun as it was going to get. Many companies were represented at the event, Nokia, Canon and Sony spring to mind. Though I have to be honest, and my lateness did not help but I found myself gravitating towards the bloggers and the peeps I knew more than the people who brought in the stuff. Don’t get me wrong there were the great guys, Nokia and Intel reps jump to mind, who were like just out there and PIMPING their stuff and talking to us and seeming to be REALLY interested in the stuff that we were doing, and there were certain other companies who didn’t really seem to care whether we looked at them at all. I just think that if you’re going to come for such an event, the least you could do is talk to some of us… Though I do have to say that I was quite late, so maybe they were tired but you know what? That does not make me any less of a diva-blogger! And that will not make me bitch any less about it. I didn’t take any pictures personally but all the other attendees did so… shameless plug for other people’s blog I guess.

Shout out to Nadnut; great to meet ya!

Tech65’s Condundrum

Lately it has come to our attention that certain users of Tech65’s blog have not been able to access our blog. And it appears that these users are by and large users of Singtel’s broadband service or of Wireless@SG’s broadband service. I am presently a user of Starhub for all of my communications services save for my cellphone service. As anyone can imagine it has been terrifyingly disappointing. I post my dear friend Farinelli’s (RenHao’s) post here for all to puruse (with some edits of my own):

For about two weeks, starting on the Saturday when we recorded our live show for the 65th episode of 65bits, has been inaccessible through Singnet broadband and wireless@sg. The only way we are aware of so far to get through this problem is to create a proxy at, port 8080.

I think we’re pretty sure it isn’t a block by Singnet, because 5% of the time it is accessible – a block wouldn’t let that happen. It is clearly some sort of connection problem, something that unfortunately after many many attempted solutions, have not lead to improved connections, and our confidence in the services provided by Singtel has completely failed at this juncture. Particularly because of the lack of support from Singtel themselves, something that has infuriated us very much.

This problem has affected our listenership very negatively, especially in recent episodes, even though many of our listeners subscribe to our show through iTunes and our RSS feeds, everything still has to go through our site, and not being able to connect to Tech65 has impeded our ability to continue providing service as many of our editors are on Singtel.

My dear readers and listeners, please blog about this as well on your respective spaces. Let the blogosphere know in your own way about this bizarre problem, and be sure to let us know if you are encountering the same problem with your site. We hope to resolve this soon and get our shows back on the smooth track.

Thank you for your support!

*Thanks to Fari for most of this text*

It is an effect

It is an effect of the long nights you kept,
the wrong thoughts you had,
the strong lives you’ve met,
the weak moments you gave.

It is an effect that gave,
you countless maddening thoughts,
countless sleepless nights,
empty desperate cries,
for help, for love, for loss, for longing.

Those blue skies,
you dreamt of,
since the last time you spoke,
to him,
your tangible thoughts,
your intangible words,
they give little meaning to me.

I know not what I feel,
I know not what I’m writing,
The criticism inevitably will point to lack.
A lack of ingenuity, of creativity, of strength, of character.

It is an effect of living this modern life.

– To You, The Humble Honest Reader, in a vainglorious hope that you shall not rip my piece to shreds.

Dark Chocolate, Cocoa, and Chocolate Chip Cookies

AKA Devil’s Sin’s 666 Cookies

This is a recipe I cadged from Chocolate and Zucchini with slight modifications. Ok. Large Modifications because I made 120 or so as opposed to 60 as the recipe called for. The trick to do it quick though is to use one of those plastic fruit bags from supermarkets and put the dough in it, cut off a corner and pipe your mixture to perfection.

Biscuits Chocolat et Cacao et Plus De Chocolate

240 g Lindt 85% Chocolate
250 g President French Butter (I used WAY too much butter, the recipe recommended 220g)
6 eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup brown sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
250g unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Cadbury’s)
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons Nestle Tollhouse Chocolate Chips

Makes about 120 bite-size cookies, or as preferred

Melt together 120 g of the chocolate and all of the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Tranfer into a large mixing-bowl and let cool for ten minutes. In the meantime, combine the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder in another mixing-bowl, and set aside. Finely chop the reserved chocolate, and set aside.

Whisk the eggs into the cooled melted chocolate (V IMPT). Add in the sugar and mix again. Sift in the flour mixture, and stir with a wooden spoon until well combined. The batter will be thick. Fold in the chopped chocolate, chocolate chips and table salt.

Preheat the oven to 180° C (350° F) and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Scoop out rounded teaspoons of batter, shape them into balls with the tips of your fingers, and line them up on the cookie sheet, leaving a one-inch space between them. Put the cookie sheet in the refrigerator for ten minutes (if the sheet and batter are cold, the cookies are less likely to spread). Put the cookie sheet into the oven to bake for eight to ten minutes, until the tops feel just dry to the touch. Don’t overbake, or they won’t be as moist inside. BUT my advice is to overbake slightly if you’re following my recipe exactly as the chocolate chips will melt while cacao nibs from the original recipe won’t, unless you LIKE the cookies I had EXACTLY like I had it today, also your cookies should not be TOO big if not they fall apart EVEN easier.

Here’s the original recipe.

Some pictures:

C’est Ma Petite Belle!

Xbox 360 2nd Anniversary Bloggers Meet

First things first, and even though the news IS already out but we WERE the first to hear this GLOBALLY so boo to BUT here’s the news Lucasarts’ new game, Force Unleashed will land September 16th in the United States, September 17th in Southeast Asia and Australia, and September 19th in Europe. YES. This game’ll be amazing and the videos we saw, but couldn’t take pictures of were ultimately incredible. The physics were out of this world and you really could see the power of the force completely unrestrained and unleashed. Amazing SICK stuff…

However, that was just one specific thing in an event that really did blow it out of the water for me. Interesting finger foods (though I have to ask, who serves chicken wings at an event without any cutlery/crockery at all…), great conversation, free flowing beverages, a TORRENT of things to do, see, interact with, talk about and finally a great looking location that was only slightly marred by its PHYSICAL location, a bit of a find if you ask me, but no matter. The people from Microsoft seemed genuinely interested in what we bloggers thought, and were actually reaching out to us and to try and get us psyched about the various Xbox games and so on, and I must say that the strategy worked!

One of the games that I want to talk about personally which really SPIKED my interest was this game Mirror’s Edge by EA. *Full Disclosure: Mom works there* This is a game based on the idea that in a world poisoned by an overbearing government, information has to get out, and this can only be done through Parkour-utilising, chop-socky Runners. I have not seen gameplay but from a video shown it involves lots of running round roof tops and fighting without ever picking up a GUN! Love the idea, hope the execution will be flawless and the record of DICE’s previous accomplishments (Battlefield series) inspires such confidence in me.

Let me round off by commending Microsoft for pursuing the blogosphere, and trying to reach out to the more unconventional sources of news and information. The microsofties have shown a LOT of love in general to us players in Singapore, with the sheer variety of games available, great product support in general and plenty of events to keep us interested. I had a PS2 and PS1 and I liked them, but its the Xbox 360 that I truly do love. So keep up the loving MSFT.

I’ve posted my pictures here. Please help me tag the photos properly!