Welcome to The TPS Report, home to video game blogs, mix sets and even the odd piece o' 3D art.

Broke arse student, freelance games reviewer and rambling obsessive that I am, I currently seek work in mags and web sites throughout the world. If you're in a position to make that happen - and like what you see around here - let me know. I've published work with the likes of IGN and Gaming Steve.


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28/7/2012 22:31

Preview Time! Games to Look Out For in 2011
8/1/2011 5:54

2010's Games of Shame
6/1/2011 22:47

My Fave Games of 2010!
6/1/2011 20:12

StarCraft II Review - Dig Loveth the RTS!?
7/11/2010 12:48

10 Must-Have iPhone Games
2/6/2010 18:09

A Little Hotlink to An Article I Stuck Up On GiantBomb
21/4/2010 15:01

Aliens Vs Predator is Here! Woo! Oh, Hang On...
6/3/2010 20:58

iPhone Games!
6/3/2010 20:40

The Top 30 Games of an Obscenely Packed 2009. Shit Gets Epic
7/1/2010 20:09


If interested in discussing writing opportunities for on or offline gaming publications - either UK based or abroad - please contact me via E-Mail. Sparkling CV available on request



Postcards From Chernobyl! STALKER Rocks My World
Posted by Diggler - 1/4/2007 22:20

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In your face, Duke Nukem Forever! STALKER's actually out. At last
Kill Strelok. That's all I have. I can't remember who I am, where I am, nor how I got here. The only clue I have to go on right now, is a PDA found on my person. "Kill Strelok" it says, with an accompanied picture. For now, this is my sole purpose in life. Find this guy. Get some answers. Wipe him out. Seems as good an excuse as any.

Some scavengers calling themselves "stalkers" apparently found my lifeless body in the wreckage of a car crash nearby, and have brought me back to their camp in an act of "charity". They're offering me work in exchange for money and leads on the whereabouts of this "Strelok". My first assignment is to rescue one such injured stalker from a camp close-by, where he's supposedly being held hostage by mischievous bandits. I'm given a pistol, five clips, and not much else, then patted on the bum and sent on my way. Them's the punches, I guess.

As I emerge from the stalker's underground outpost into the daunting, wide open vistas of Chernobyl, vulture-like birds hover above in the ominous, imposing sky. What are they waiting for? I ain't dead yet. Distorted cat wailings meanwhile reverb throughout the hills in the distance...but I hate to think what kinda mutated kitties make such shrill sounds as these.

I see the camp up ahead in the distance, cock my gun, and press on with a death wish.

It's fucking on.

Six years after its initial 2001 announcement, STALKER is finally here. Let's put that into perspective shall we? The bleedin' Gameboy Advance came out that year. Hell, even the Playstation 2 was released barely a month or two earlier. That's right, the most popular games console in history enjoyed its entire lifespan over the course of this game's development.

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And so it begins. Your pal here sets you off on your path, while doubling up as a fence
Over on the PC side of things, Operation Flashpoint was meanwhile released around that time, as was Dig's fave game ever...Deus Ex. A year or so prior, System Shock 2 also entered our collective hearts as well. Yikes. T'was a life-time ago, no?

STALKER's stream of delays sum it up pleasingly well, as here in 2007 it somewhat appropriately hovers between beautifully cutting edge and innovative...and about as dated as a relic from a bygone era could be. I mention the above PC titles though, as STALKER slots right in among 'em as if time stood still. Many'll compare it to Oblivion ("with guns"), but it actually has far more in common with the aforementioned, than Bethesda's more recent medieval classic.

That was an era of gaming when PC ruled supreme, and original, genre busting titles seemed to be dragging first person shooters into a whole new direction. It's sad that Vampire: Bloodlines - and the much maligned Deus Ex sequel aside - this first person, free-roaming FPS genre all but died out instead then, particularly with all that potential seemingly never truly realised.

Until now, that is.

Time Travel

For the nillies not in the know, STALKER's a PC exclusive, free-roaming FPS adventure set in the nuclear wastelands of Chernobyl (or "The Zone"). With said amnesia driving forward a central plot-line for you to follow, the game also chucks in an abundance of side missions, optional objectives, and a wealth of RPG fodder, such as looting, inventories and earning phat cash.

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While STALKER features a stunning open-ended world at its core, it's never quite as freeing as Oblivion's, with a ton of fenced-in zones, and regular radiation barriers
It's also my fave game so far this year by quite the hefty margin, and one I feel my duty to spray warm goo all over.

As a Ukraine developed title seemingly older than my mum though, it's a very un-American beast that's kinda hard to describe. STALKER boasts such a unique and captivating style you see, you just seldom find anything vaguely like it in the average US, or even Japanese produced title. The game boasts a grit and a roughness oddly refreshing next to the typically glossy and overly-polished EA or Ubi-soft cash-in shooter.

It also showcases one of the most atmospheric and enthralling game worlds yet seen, coming across like a twisted blend of the Yorkshire Moors, crossed with the most dreary of London crack-den council estates. Coupled with a post-apocalyptic twist of course. You feel dirty just playing it...yet totally sucked in at the same time.

Admittedly, this universe isn't quite as humongous nor as epic as it appears on first glance, but if nothing else, STALKER can boast one of the more memorable gaming worlds seen in quite the long while, even before we get onto the more important stuff like, well, how it plays.

Stockholm Syndrome

While it's an exceptional game however, and I could prattle on about stunning views and twisted art style for hours, the barrier for entry is quite high, and I mean that both mentally and monetary. The game's graphics scale accordingly for example - and will run on pretty much any average rig - but a top of the range bastard death bringer of a machine is almost required to really see the sucker in its true form. I'd almost say it's a deal breaker to be honest, as without settings ramped up, and full dynamic lighting in effect, it looks about as old as the year it was announced. I shit yee not, we're talking a good five year leap in graphical quality, based solely on the specs of your PC.

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It sure looks fab on a top PC, but older rigs will feel the pain. It's just a shame there's such a gorge between STALKER's high and medium settings, as few will ever get to enjoy it at its best
If yours drifts more towards the lower end of the spectrum then, it honestly feels like a poor man's budget-ware take on its true self, and I have a much harder time recommending it. Ramped up to full however, STALKER looks and plays about as up to date and glorious as anything Valve have knocked out in recent years, with stunning shadow effects, gloriously huge views, and pleasing physics aplenty. So much so, that your jaw will drop.

The aforementioned mental barrier is what many will have an even harder time with however. STALKER is tough, you must understand. Real tough. Its already-released patch takes some of the sting out - with some minor balance tweaks here and there along with a general extra layer of polish - but by no means expect a walk in the park with this game regardless. As well as being an FPS and a quasi-RPG, STALKER is a survival horror game more than anything...yet one unlike anything you've ever experienced before.

Forget your Resident Evils and your Eternal Darkness's, STALKER is survival in its most purest form. Thrown into the big bad world with little to nothing to defend yourself with - other than the previously touched upon pea-shooter of a pistol - you're destined for death almost immediately. While contending with the harsh conditions of the Chernobyl wastelands, you'll be subject to radiation, vicious wild-life, a rumbling stomach, bleeding wounds, and a worrying lack of ammo at each and every turn. Scavenging becomes your most valuable skill then, as without it, you're essentially fucked.

The game is incredibly hardcore in that regard, as it barely explains any of this to you either, totally and utterly refusing to lead you by the hand in any small way whatsoever. It almost mocks you at times. Digging through dead bodies in desperate search for a bandage while you slowly bleed to death, or mercilessly stuffing a tin of Spam down your throat to quench painful hunger like a dirty homeless, become pivotal and regular parts of the STALKER experience. It all reinforces that underlying emphasis on sheer survival, and while I love it, it sure ain't for everyone. I guess the game takes a while to really get in that regard.

Pistol Whipped

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Combat ain't so easy at first. Shots regularly miss, you'll die constantly, and enemies take a ton of damage. It improves though
This extends to the gun-play. On first booting up the game, guns are scarce, aim is off, and you find yourself missing dudes further than a mere 10 meters away. It's all a little annoying, truth be told. I think those infuriated by this apparent "whack combat" somewhat miss the point however, as while STALKER isn't a full-on RPG in the traditional sense (you don't level up skills nor earn XP points of any kind), it does follow the RPG staples of slowly improving a character as you progress.

So while combat starts off a little fiddly, with guns hard to wield and long range firefights a bitch, once you explore a little, make some cash, track down some artifacts, and snag some modified guns, your combat skills improve dramatically...based solely on your findings. With sniper rifles, rare pistols and the end-game machine guns in your hands, range increases, damage shoots through the roof, and you'll be head-shotting distant silhouettes without a second thought. This is STALKER's equivalent of "leveling up" you could say, and it's all very RPG inspired, but in a brand new way. It'll take some patience though.

Working through those initial hardships reaps wondrous rewards all in all then. Frustration slowly subsides as you discover and adapt to the game's brutal conditioning, and the combat is far from as broken you may initially fear too.

And it's from this point on...that STALKER has you.

Warez Monger

Another very RPG-inspired trait of the game is the trading system. All this daunting exploration, painful combat, and oh-so-rewarding looting is worthwhile you see, as littering the landscape are the previously mentioned (and somewhat rare) "artifacts"; small objects of immense power that work somewhat like perma-buffs.

Selling such rarities - along with looted weapons and other pieces o' kit you come across - becomes one of the more fleshed-out parts of the game. Your backpack can't hold a lot, so deciding what to take, what to drop and what to sell becomes a puzzle in and of itself - as does tracking down friendlies out in the wild to offload said warez to. It's all very meticulous and enjoyable, and one aspect I dug the hell out of.

Unfortunately, not all fellow tradesmen prove quite so welcoming...

I've been in Chernobyl for three days now, working my way from outpost to outpost, earning cash along the way, while uncovering more and more on this enigmatic Strelok in the process. Mostly whispers here, rumors there, but I sense I'm on the right track.

I've been given a contact over in a bar a good long trek across the other side of The Zone, but on my way over, found myself accosted by wild animals. Angry, razor-toothed dogs and bloated monstrosities of nature I'd rather not think about for a moment longer, they didn't go down without a fight. Although I escaped unscathed, I'm a little worse for wear on the ammo front, and in desperate need of some R&R.

Heading down the long, winding countryside path to my objective - one that'd be picturesquely beautiful had the radiation not scorched it into a barren picture of death and darkness - I spot an old farmhouse off to my right. Perhaps a good place to put my feet up for a few hours.

As I approach the farmhouse, my radar emits a series of bleeps. Life-forms in the vicinity. Before I have a chance to survey the surroundings, I hear a voice yell out to me up ahead. "Over here, stalker! Let's talk". I lower my permanently-raised gun and approach slowly.

Turns out it's a fellow scavenger, and he's making me an offer. He's somehow got his hands on an oh-so-rare Gauss gun from god knows where, and is willing to offload it to me for the all-too-reasonable sum of 800 rubles. That's hard earned money I was saving to buy information from the occupants of that bar up ahead, but then again...with only half a clip left in my rifle, chances are I won't even make it there alive. I tell my new friend he has himself a deal then, at which point he takes my cash and heads into the farmhouse with his chums to fetch my new toy.

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Stealth proves unreliable, thanks to mostly fab, but sadly uneven AI
Moments later, I receive a transmission on my earpiece. It's the same guy. "Turn around and get the fuck outta here stalker. If we ever see you again, you're dead."

Son of a...!

Feeling mildly raped, I slowly turn and head back to the main road, blood boiling within me like a Jack Bauer with a pint spilled on him, when I stop dead in my tracks. Wait. These fucker's ain't gettin' away with that.

I set-up behind a nearby tree, whip out my binoculars and take a ganders back towards the farmhouse. I spot 10 blips on my radar...some guards patrolling the grounds of the farmhouse, others sitting around inside, enjoying a quiet song on their guitar. With my money in their pockets. Mother fuckers. I decide to wait for sunset...then I'll make my move.


It's pitch black now, and rain has set in. Good, the extra noise'll ease my infiltration. Sticking to the shadows of surrounding trees and old abandoned farm equipment, I sneak towards the farmhouse without being seen. The main entrance is heavily guarded, but a side entrance remains barely protected by a single solitary guard wondering to and fro with boredom. I crouch, sneak up behind, and draw my knife. Open wide! Blade ploughed into his spine, he drops dead instantly.

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That's what you get.
I whip out my pistol and tip-toe into the darkened farmhouse. The thieving bastards sit around a camp-fire in the center, bathed in the light of glowing orange embers that, unfortunately for them, don't extend beyond a few meters. I flick on my night-vision goggles and edge a little closer. Payback's a bitch.

I let off a barrage of headshots and the scumbags drop like a line of dominoes, dead before they even realise what him 'em. I've already taken out half the clan before the guards out front realise what's going on, then all hell breaks loose. It appears stealth has gone out the window, as bullets blaze past my head, so I whip out my assault rifle and get to work.

Some spraying and preying later, the farmhouse lies in ruins. Twitching corpses languish on top of one another, while smoke and debris litter the battleground with an eerie calmness. I walk over to the prick who stole my cash. He's still alive...spluttering up blood and crying in pain. So I casually blow his fucking head off. Retribution, dick-face.

No doubt the Gauss gun was a figment of the poor sap's imagination, but he does seem to be sporting a heavily modified submachine gun in his lifeless hands, one boasting a gorgeously sleek and oh so rare silencer that more than makes up for it. This'll do.

All in all then, a fine night's Stalking.

Continued here.

Untitled Document

The Polynomial. Like playing a rave

Untitled Document

Fallout 3

Enjoying a fully modded out re-visit. Wow

The Road

Pretty much due to the above

Breaking Bad

Already shaping up to be the best season yet

Explosions in the Sky

Easing the pain of living in a post-Friday Night Lights world

Untitled Document


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Gaming Shows

The 1up Radio Network
1up.com's collection of weekly gaming podcasts, the pick of which would have to be ListenUP, full of juicy rumors and interesting banter week in, week out

Area 5
Formerly The 1up Show, since losing their jobs the old video editing team have continued doing what they do best, in an independent internet-based TV show, covering whatever upcoming games they can get their hands on, and various other bits and pieces

Fully Ramblomatic
A hysterical gaming blogger posting what he calls "zero punctuation" video reviews that have to be seen - and heard - to be believed

A Life Well Wasted
Freelance journalist Robert Ashley's internet radio show, with a far more interesting and professional demeanor than your typical podcast. Interviews, fast-paced editing and catchy tunes abound

On the Spot
The humongous gaming site known as Gamespot broadcasts a video show each week, in which upcoming games are demoed live on air, and viewers are invited to send in questions to find out more

The Hotspot
Gamespot's audio-based companion to On the Spot, in which site editors cover the week's news while simultaneously poking fun at all that is gaming

Gaming Steve
A more mature podcast, hosted by a long-time games industry professional armed with a ton of insider info and loads of interesting opinions. The Dig's been known to post articles and stories on here from time to time

Quick-fire internet-based TV show with console reviews and comedy sketches. Funny as hell

Major Nelson
An interesting "blogcast" hosted by a Microsoft employee, featuring stacks of exclusive behind the scenes news and interviews relating to all things Xbox 360

The Kojima Productions Report
Official podcast from the team of Hideo Kojima, creator of the much-loved Metal Gear franchise. Full of news and interviews relating to all things Metal Gear, it's probably one for die-hard fans only

Pure Pwnage
Mockumentary series on the life of a pro gamer. Episode five is possibly the funniest thing on the internet

Other Sites

What you could call gaming's homepage. Constantly updated news and links on the entire industry, from minute breaking headlines, to funny arse viral vids

Game Trailers
Easy to use multimedia-rich web site offering official trailers, video demos and sneak peaks at all the upcoming releases

Game Videos
Sister site to 1up.com, focusing on game trailers, video interviews and even the odd documentary

The Gamespot front-end, and the gaming equivalent of the Internet Movie Database. Includes detailed reviews and extensive video features on pretty much all systems and games ever made

Giant Bomb
Speaking of Gamespot, the controversial "letting go" of editor Jeff Gerstmann resulted in him starting up this new venture with fellow former writers of the site. Great podcast in particular

Discounting the audio and video shows mentioned earlier, 1up's main site is also worth a visit in its own right. Not only bustling with quality gaming articles and extensive developers' blogs, it also doubles up as a massive friends network, ideal for meeting fellow gamers and joining like-minded communities

Live Marketplace Feed
The most up to date and reliable way to keep track of all the new Xbox Live Marketplace content, from new weapons and map packs, to movie trailers and game demos

Xbox Reloaded
360 backwards compatibility can be a minefield. This blog attempts to shed some light on the issue by playing original Xbox games for you and reporting back the results

The ultimate resource for walkthroughs and cheats

Disposable Media
A wonderful (and free) E-zine, full of reviews and articles on gaming, movies, music and TV. Puts most high street mags to shame

A must-have for all PC gamers, X-Fire is a buddy list and communications tool that keeps constant tabs on what games both you and all your mates are playing, on or offline

A contender to the X-Fire throne that has pretty much overtaken it straight out of the gate. Valve's Steam client contains friends lists, downloadable games, Live-style achievements and plenty more to sink your teeth into

Convert your Xbox Live gamercard into an image, for use on forums and web sites for free. That's mine further down

Ain't it Cool News
The latest news, gossip and spy reports from the world of movies, TV and (occasionally) video games

Writer, director and actor Kevin Smith - he of Clerks fame - records a monthly podcast in which he and fellow pals discuss everything from trying to felate oneself, to the time his dog got covered in ejaculate. Riveting stuff


Matt Robinson, 2011

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