Saturday, January 3, 2009

Closing off 08

Happy New Year everyone. I hope you all had enjoyable New Year celebrations.

I was lucky enough to be on a boat in the middle of Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour as we saw off '08 and welcomed '09. In keeping with tradition, this was done in an appropriately inebriated fashion. Life is tough sometimes.

I'm not usually a fan of New Year's resolutions, but I decided to make a couple this time around. First up, is improving my woeful attempts at keeping in touch with friends. One email a year is pretty lousy. My aim for '09 is to send out at least two emails to everyone, so watch out. Second, is joining a football team and improving my fitness. I haven't really done any exercise since arriving in Hong Kong. If I don't watch out, I'm going to need to rename my blog Pielights.

Ok, I thought I would close out '08 with a quick note on what floated my boat in December:

1. Metal Gear Solid 4. Wow! This game blew me away. I rank MGS4 second only to FFVII in terms of Best Games Ever. My only regret with MGS4, was not being able to play this game with the boys, as the story is so good and completely ties up the threads of the old games. I have fond memories of all the boys gathering on the couch in our old flat on T-street to play Metal Gear Solid. We spent hours working our way through Shadow Moses and the game spawned a few nicknames as well.

It's strange to say this about a video game, but I found it very unsettling in MGS4 when you return to Shadow Moses. As you walk around the old base, the game feeds you lines from MGS and when you come to a security camera you had to avoid at the beginning of MGS, it falls off the wall from rust. I think anyone who invested hours in MGS will find this part of the game very eerie.

The game play in MGS4 is top draw stealth/action. It's enjoyable and challenging to play, and it gives you the flexibility to play it as a guns blazing, take-no-prisoners game, or as a stealth, don't be seen and don't kill anyone game. What really makes this game for me, is the rich story. I'm sure a lot of action game fans will find all the cut scenes irritating, but I enjoyed them. It does mean that at times you are doing more watching than playing, but in terms of an overall entertainment experience, I think the balance between action and story work very well. Hideo Kojima and his team have done a great job.

To sum up, MGS4 is a top draw stealth game, with a kick-arse story, wrapped together into a total entertainment experience. Trust me, check it out, though I recommend brushing up on the back story. If you're a bit rusty on the background, you can refresh you memory here.

2. Hot pot. The weather has turned cold here in Hong Kong (thank goodness, I found summer almost unbearable). It's been a pleasure to unpack my hoodies, jackets and scarves - there is nothing quite as comfortable as a hoodie. During winter, it's traditional here in Hong Kong to go out for hot pot (often referred to as steamboat). I love hot pot. For those that have not had the joy of hot pot, it consists of a simmering metal pot of stock (best with chili), which is kept in the center of the table. While the hot pot is kept simmering, ingredients are placed into the pot and are cooked at the table. Typical hot pot dishes include thinly sliced meat, leafy vegetables, mushrooms, wontons, egg dumplings and seafood. An array of dipping sauces is also provided, so you can combine your freshly cooked goodies with whatever flavoured condiment you desire. Yum!

3. The Dark Knight DVD. As I mentioned previously, I got the 2 disc set for Christmas, which I recommend. The movie is awesome and the extra DVD is packed full of fun, if not somewhat sycophantic, features about the making of the film.

4. Speedracer. My surprise film for the month was Speedracer. It was rubbished by most reviewers, so I gave it a miss at the cinema. I picked up the DVD on sale the other day at HMV and was pleasantly surprised when I watched it. I really liked the cartoony look and feel the film has, with over saturated colours and action scenes that are more about giving you an impression of what's going on, than conveying any real coherent sequence. If you gave Speedracer a miss an cinema like I did, I recommend checking it out on DVD.

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