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.

-Matt/Diggler

Old Entries
First time visiting? Be sure to flip through the archives. I've been writing for friggin' ever, and you never know what you might have missed.

Score Breakdown
Just what those wee numbers mean exactly.

Visit the Forum
Multi-platform gaming chit chat, along with whatever interesting news and downloads I happen to stumble across amidst the interpipes.

TPS approved custom
built gaming PCs

Future Plans For the Site
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

WTF? Dig's Getting Hitched!
18/2/2010 23:39

More...

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

 

 

Grand Theft Auto IV Bullet Point Run-Down Review Kinda Thang
Posted by Diggler - 16/5/2008 23:54

The review-proof GTA4 tells the tale of Borat clone Nico Bellic, moving to New Yor...er, Liberty City to start life afresh (among other things...). It combines the series' trademark driving, crashing, murdering and fucking to potent effect, but that much you know I'm sure. So forget all that, let's cut to the chase...

Stuff I Love

Click to enlarge
Pretty much the most-anticipated game ever, at the time of writing GTA4 has already netted over half a billion dollars
The driving model. At first it feels a little too realistic for a game so over the top - cop chases done Forza-style - but it works. Cars are slow, skid all over the place, and flip with ease, but the result is a far more realistic, spectacular looking, and downright hilarious game to show for it. Both the sense of weight and suspension are pretty darn flawless in particular, making way for one of the sweetest and most nuanced driving models ever seen in a game. The chav-lets will moan at first I'm sure - you can't go burning rubber all over the place without a care in the world this time out, and in fact have to drive reasonably intelligently - but it's a major maturity injection for the series that I welcome wholeheartedly. Opening her up and really letting a car rip across a straight or a humungous bridge, provides such a rare and exhilarating buzz - much like it would in real life - that you saviour every moment. Yet collide with a fellow car as you so do? And boy, you'll witness just about the best vehicular crashes ever seen in a game, dwarfing even Burnout's. Bloody hell.

Click to enlarge
No spoilers here, but let's just say Nico has an ulterior motive for moving to Liberty. Reviewer claims of "Oscar worthy" performances make me pee a little, but it's definitely a step-above the usual fare
Combat. A little precise and fiddly it may be next to your Halos and your CoDs - plus the new cover system's a borderline joke compared to Rainbow Six and the like - but for this series? What a breath of fresh air. Whipping out a pistol and capping dudes in the head? Awesome. Slipping from cover to cover then blind firing over a wall ala Gears of War? Amazing. Pulling out your trusty shotgun and blowing dudes so far back they slam into a wall the other side of the room? Omar-tastic! The shoot-outs are such a comparative blast next to earlier installments in this series, they feel pretty much unplayable now. It's just a mild shame that the game waits a good three or so hours 'til it starts doling out the toys - then even longer before you really get to let 'em rip - but patience pays off in dividends I tells ya. You've seldom smiled so hard as you will the first time a target takes off in a car, you un-holster your .45, manually place a crosshair over his head, then blow the guy clean away through the windscreen. Watch that sucker slump forward on the steering wheel as the horn echoes out for miles. I think I just came a little.

Click to enlarge
Grand Theft's famous radio stations return, with the ambient-tinged "Journey" a particular favorite of mine. Perfect for late-night whore-mongering
Euphoria physics. Recently hyped for its being heavily featured in the upcoming Star Wars: Force Unleashed, some may be surprised to see Euphoria present and correct right here throughout the entirety of GTA4 already. What can only be described as a cutting edge blend of expert AI, ragdoll physics and motion blending, Euphoria has to be seen to be believed. Characters move and react eerily realistically, reacting and interacting with the environment in amazing ways on the fly. Ya know how in most games, if you were to drive into a dude, typically a cookie cutter pre-canned animation would fire off, usually regardless of speed or vehicle size? Here them suckers'll physically react just as they would in real life. And more importantly? Very much differently every time. Give 'em a gentle nudge for example, and pedestrians will shuffle outta the way and perhaps let out a "Hey!". But ram 'em hard though? They'll fly all over the frickin' place, rolling, tumbling and flailing pretty damn flawlessly. No more laughable bodies that spontaneously lose all bodily functions. No more bags o' bones. This shit's alive. But it goes way beyond that. I jacked a dude's car while he was busy working on it under the hood at one point, and he physically grabbed hold of the door and got dragged along with it for half a mile before he let go. Oh how I laughed...despite kinda cringing in guilt. He then got up off the ground and just sorta stumbled around in shock, as I zoomed off into the distance. You see this sort of thing constantly, everywhere from the time your motorbike clips the side of a car, sending you hurtling 20 meters into the air and smacking into a lamppost, to the time you crash head-on into a wall and go flying outta the windscreen covering your face from glass (buckle up, kids). As gamers, Euphoria is our future.

Click to enlarge
Visually, GTA's pretty darn good I must say. It's a little soft, and hella jerky, but the scope and sheer detail will amaze. View distance surpasses even the mighty Crackdown, while motion blur and gorgeous filters bless the sights with a startling realism
Then there's Liberty City. The above physics engine has the effect of bringing all the inhabitants of this world to life wonderfully - along with its many vehicular occupants - but the city itself plays an even larger part in pulling off that illusion. It's mammoth in size, refuses to bother you with loading screens while driving, and is so ridiculously jam packed full o' content, you don't know where to begin. The wealth of story missions are as present as ever, with you able to chop and choose between givers as you so wish, but there's also a zillion side activities to peruse, such as games of pool, getting drunk, playing darts, dating chicks, boning chicks, going to strip bars, races, enjoying cabarets, seeing stand-up comedians, listening to the radio, taking air tours, playing videogames, finding secrets, and...well, you get the idea. This ain't even the great stuff though, no sir. What makes Liberty City stand out above all else and feel genuinely bustling, are the tiny nuggets of un-scripted brilliance that are far easier to miss. Cops chasing perps down the street, then giving up after half a block 'cos they're too fat. Car crashes, followed by drivers getting out and arguing over who's to blame. Even just the sight of peeps enjoying a bout of yoga in the park on an early sunday morning. Love it. Not to mention, the use of TV, the internet and mobile phones, all fundamentally tied to both the mission system and the more harmless social interactions within this universe. It's all impeccably detailed stuff, with literally hours of pitch black entertainment contained within. The other day I sat down with a sandwich and actually watched 20 minutes of TV for example...inside a fucking video game. The humour's great too. Very much a hilarious reflection of our modern lives, here in 2008. Promise me you'll watch this stuff?

Click to enlarge
Morally, GTA is an insanely mixed bag. It'll often force you down the route of the sociopath against your will, yet simultaneously show you repercussions for such evil doing. An example being the (worryingly fun) drunk driving, and instant police chases that ensue
Finally of course, there's multiplayer. Don't get me wrong; I think GTA's a little too zany and over the top to be taken as a serious online time-sucker like the aforementioned Live classics, but it is still the ultimate "load up with pals and fuck around for hours" game, and very much its own beast to boot. Modes, so many of them. From deathmatch games, to helicopters races, to objective modes, to co-op missions, there's something here for everyone. Even a 16-man, mission-less bundle with no rules or teams, letting you fart around however you all wish, causing all the spontaneous mayhem and made-up mini-games you could imagine. With - get this - the entire friggin' city available to you and yours...cops 'n' all. It's a technical marvel, as they say, amazingly fresh, and actually kinda - shhhh - worthy of being a separately priced game. In fact, it's a fantastic wee taste of what the (no doubt on its way) GTA MMO may eventually feel like.

Stuff I Hate

All this is lovely stuff, and can not be downplayed. I won't lie, I've never even particularly liked this series either, but the sheer joy of the driving, the fact combat's actually fun, and the truly spectacular setting all totally won me over. For its opening 10 to 20 hours in fact, it felt 100% justified in reviewer claims of being "the best thing you've ever seen EVER".

Click to enlarge
The peripheral characters are memorable for the most part, with steroid-injecting alpha bro Brucie and compulsive gambler Roman standing out in particular. One can't but feel the game drops the ball in the latter half though, falling back on one too many stereotypical mob-tards by comparison
Damn, this game is long though. Too long for me, in fact. Sticking around for so many weeks as it has done - sucking me in day in, day out - has shown up far more cracks than a shorter but sweeter 7 hour title would. Hairline fractures at first, the sheer size and length of this sucker saw such imperfections balloon into humungous shart stains of pure frustration by the time I clocked that final mission. Now I'm almost glad to see the back of it, which is a shame really. The game outstayed its welcome, I guess.

Examples of such niggles? Okay. What do GTA4, Shadow of the Colossus and Mass Effect all have in common? The answer, of course, is they all run like balls. More specifically, they all feel like amazingly ambitious games, that simply push their respective hardware way too hard for their own good. The same frame-rate probs, texture pop-in and jaggy visuals that plague each of these in varying amounts appear present and correct here, and it most definitely takes some sheen off what is an otherwise incredibly polished product. It's very choppy, very framey, and should really have given up the v-sync for a slightly smoother ride. It's hard to enjoy a police chase pile-up when you're running at 5fps.

Click to enlarge
Dating chicks is a harmless side game, as are man-dates with the guys. Some neat ideas at work here, but the execution is limited, and the mini-games poor
Next up? The missions. Boy, there are hundreds of 'em, and hat's must most definitely go off to the devs for sure giving you a ton to do. But the majority? Pretty damn dull, I'm afraid. Fetch quests and one dimensional hits grow old quickly, and for all the epic bank heists and rooftop sniper missions that rock serious hardness, there's another frustrating bike chase level that sees you tailing some invincible super human for an age without checkpoints. Again, and again, and fucking again. How about some quality over quantity next time? It's well documented that most players never finish a GTA game - despite the series' insane popularity - so why not ditch half the crappy filler missions and tighten the whole thing up a bit. A 15 hour experience packed full o' beauties...as opposed to 40 odd hours of uneven teeth grinding.

Click to enlarge
Technology plays a huge part in GTA4. Your mobile in particular, is constantly ringing, receiving texts, and even acting as a personal organizer. It'll even go off mid-mission at times, to often giggly effect
Lack of choice. A big one for me. Nico's a cool guy in the cut-scenes - well acted and sprouting often hilarious dialogue - so much so, that I wanted to play him as a good guy almost instantly. A dude pulled into a life of crime due to past and circumstance, but a stand-up chap never the less. But nope. This is GTA; you're a cold blooded, road-raging psychopath, like it or not. The game will occasionally offer up the chance to spare a victim, particularly towards the very end - a drug dealer begging for his life and such - but it seems laughable when you're then forced to gun down hundreds of cops in order to escape back to your safe-house to nab a "Mission Complete". GTA is essentially an RPG at the end of the day - albeit in a style and sub-genre very much of its own - so more of a choice in moralistic paths would have been very much welcome in order to play up these aspects, rather than presuming we are all insatiable nuts who play games merely to get our murder on. One sequence where Nico literally kidnaps a woman, beats her, then takes a photo of her face left me feeling particularly queasy; so much so that I had to turn the game off for a while and play some Viva Pi?ata.

Finally, the all-important issue of monotony. While I love Liberty City, and its recreation of New York is particularly smile-inducing if you've been to the city proper, 15 odd hours in, you've...kinda had your fill I gotta say. The game turns into an interactive taxi-taking sim at this point - GTA's "fast travel" if you will - but as neat as the yellow beacons of joy are, finding 'em, hailing 'em, and directing 'em quite literally hundreds upon hundreds of times becomes a serious pain in the bum. One will kill for an Oblivion-esque instant-warp.

Nice! I Like Very Much!

Click to enlarge
The internet plays its part in GTA too. Along with sending and receiving e-mails, there's an entire satirical world wide web to surf. Internet dating, downloadable ring-tones, even spam sites...all very much present, and 100% usable, interacting directly with the outside world. Amazing
The highest compliment I can give GTA4 though...is that despite the above technical issues, frustrating missions, and lack of choice in its central storyline, it feels like a genuine maturation for not just this series...but gaming as a whole. So much so, that despite the sucker doing its darndest to force you into the role of the pantomime mass murderer, you'll fight like hell against it. Very much to the game's credit you see, no longer does it feel particularly cool running around like a mentalist, machine gunning cops and running over innocents. The world feels so realistic and natural now, such juvinility feels out of place...and in fact engages some serious guilt.

No, you sorta want to hail those bleedin' cabs, instead of constantly jack cars. You want to save people instead of constantly slaughter 'em like digital ants. And you most definitely want Nico to fulfill his mission and live happily ever after, as this life of crime continually closes in around him. The killing spree nature of GTA feels so far beyond redundant and dated now, that while the series' basic mechanics haven't ultimately changed a huge amount, the realization of a true interactive world most certainly has. Rockstar did it, to be frank. This is no longer a cardboard cartoon. Now it's fucking real.

(Pictures courtesy of Playstation)

Untitled Document

The Polynomial. Like playing a rave

Untitled Document

Game
Fallout 3

Enjoying a fully modded out re-visit. Wow

Film
The Road

Pretty much due to the above

Show
Breaking Bad

Already shaping up to be the best season yet

Tune
Explosions in the Sky

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

Untitled Document

Forums

The TPS Forum
Official boards for the site

RLLMUK Forum
The old Edge forums gone independent. The busiest and most interesting gaming board around, worthy of multiple visits a day

NTSC-UK Forum
Another exceptional gaming forum, featuring one of the friendliest communities on the net, and up to the minute news

NeoGAF
A more US-centric gaming board, with huge piles of traffic and even the odd famous face

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

Consolevania
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

Kotaku
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

Gamespot
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

1up.com
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

GameFAQs
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

X-Fire
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

Steam
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

MyGamerCard.net
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

Smodcast
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

Please do not use anything on this site without credit
X-Fire Profile
Feel free to add me to X-Fire, Xbox Live or any of the other apps to the right
Xbox Live:
Diggler26
Wii Friend Code:
1224 7821 4721 8136
Playstation Network:
Diggler
Steam:
Diggler26
Twitter