I bought a CD

Today I walked into a shop and randomly purchased a CD, which I took home and played.

IMG_0008Why am I bothering to post this? Well because if recent financial results don’t improve, it might be extremely difficult to do such a thing in most UK towns in the not too distant future – which would be a great loss.

While renting music or downloading it may satisfy some – I still like to own a physical copy of my music.

My favourite music of 2010

Yes I know its nearly February but here’s what grabbed my attention the most last year (in no particular order).

Arcade Fire – The Suburbs

The Suburbs

The Arcade Fire’s third album is one of those albums that sounds better as a whole that any single track. From the epic orchestral thumping of “Rococo” to the quiet introspection of “Wasted Hours” to the delightfully poppy “Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains)” this collection of songs deserves your full attention while listening. While it probably is slightly too long, I couldn’t pick a song to drop and I’m glad they didn’t. There really is no filler on this album, a rarity indeed. Original,  catchy, melancholic this if my favourite album of the past 5 years, let alone 2010. It just hooks me every time, it has its rockier moments, it’s quiet moments but they all feel like one. The hallmark of a great album is one where your favourite track changes regularly, for now my favourite track is ‘We Used to Wait’ (checkout this amazing dynamic video) but in the past it has been Rococo, Deep Blue, Ready To Start (in fact they’ve all been a favourite at times). Brilliant.

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Audible finally release iPhone app in the UK

Audible UK have released an app for the iPhone. The best feature over the built in software is that it doesn’t rotate when you hold it sideways (I am certain this “feature” of the the iPhone exists solely for in-store demos, I find it very frustrating and wish it could be turned off).Audible UK iPhone App

Other features include the ability to download books over the Internet (but strangely, not 3G which would have been more useful), add bookmarks with notes, customise the length of time the rewind button goes back, a button-less interface for when in the car, and a sleep timer. Overall the user experience is much more suited to audiobooks than the default iPhone interface and I highly recommend it.

For those if you you haven’t discovered the joy of audiobooks, they are a great way to read while driving, doing household chores or just when your eyes feel too tired to read (I get that a lot since my job involves using a computer all day). If you like books then give them a try.

 

 

 

 

Now if only there was some kind of Kindle like device that would play audiobooks, but keep your place in sync between the audiobook and the eBook.

When you buy software, how long should it reasonably continue to work for?

Electronic Arts have decided to discontinue some of their earlier Xbox 360 games, meaning players will no longer be able to play online. With the 360 still selling exceptionally well, the fact that games publishers are deprecating some of its older games must be worrying news for console owners. To think I can still play Team Fortress Classic, purchased in March 2000 to this day on my Windows 7 laptop –  this amazing feat however is  because the servers are not run by one company. Lesson learnt?

Halo Reach

OK so I am a little late to the party with this review, I like to wait until the price of an Xbox game comes down in price before shelling out for it.

I’ve been playing Halo Reach a lot over the Christmas period and I am really enjoying it. I was a huge fan of the original Halo, the story and simplicity (there were only 6 or 7 weapons) and nonstop action. Yes some of the levels were repetitive (I remember one level, where you had to get to the top of a building fighting The Flood, and each floor was essentially the same, meaning you did the same over and over level 5 or 6 times!) but others like the wide-open second level where you drove around the planet Halo were ground-braking for an FPS. Halo 2 was more of the same, now with dual-wielding and some more weapons, and multiplayer. What I didn’t like was playing as someone other than the Masterchief , I lost interest during these parts. Halo 3 was for me, more Halo 2 with prettier graphics and better online play. The story didn’t really grab my attention, possibly due to the parts I’d blanked out while playing Halo 2 and me not knowing what on earth was going on except there were enemies to shoot. ODST was a return to form for me, a totally new set of characters in a rich, dark, film-noir (Blade Runner-esque) atmosphere and good backstory that compelled me to keep playing.

The good

Halo Reach takes the good parts of ODST’s story and gameplay, but adds some new features such as jetpacks and the sprint ability. What makes a big difference between it and say, Halo 3 is the story seems to grab my attention and gives me a reason so shoot all those

Covenant. The levels are also very varied and don’t get boring. The multiplayer is rock-solid too, unlike Halo 3, I don’t seem to end up getting shot from out of nowhere every 10 seconds – it seems more well balanced.

The bad

Not all is good however. Only 2 months after its release, Bungie are expecting loyal fans to pay more for some extra maps in order to enjoy the full online experience. I am all for additional content that can be purchased, but it seems that these days games developers hold back content specifically and then sell you it a few months later. I wouldn’t mind if we were 1 or 2 years down the line but to release it so soon just makes me think that nowadays when you buy a game, you actually get 90% of it and can expect to pay another ~£7 in points to get the full experience in 2 or 3 months time. I have also seen the new maps being bundled with the game in shops for the same price as the original, further penalising the loyal fans who go out and buy this stuff when it comes out.

Conclusion

The game is great, and will provide hours of fun. There is plenty of replay value, not just with the online play, but also the solo campaign which can be played on multiple difficulties and with friends. I am slightly annoyed about the additional maps being released so soon (they should have come with the game), but I wouldn’t that spoil what is the best Halo game to date and one of the best shooters of the 360.