X Marks The Spot

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HO, HO, HO, MERRY XMAS

Now, I'm slightly hung-over after an enjoyable evening in the pub with friends, so don't give me any grief because I'm not in the mood. It's all been happening over here in the UK. March has been a busy month so far in gaming terms and it's just going to get better.

All I have to say is move over Solid Snake because X marks the spot! March 8th saw the long awaited arrival of Metal Gear Solid 2 to Europe and what a fuss everybody made. Maybe this is the time to say that the whole Metal Gear thing is beginning to wear very thin with me.

Yes, I admit it, I'm not a Metal Gear fan [gasp]. The fact is that I really can't be bothered with all the pussy-footing about and coochy cooing guards in order to nick their dog tags malarkey that is Metal Gear. And no, I didn't weep tears of joy as I watched the first footage of MGS2.

Let me introduce you to my friend Konami Boy (name has been changed to protect the innocent) – he works for a well known Japanese publisher. Consequently, for the past two years I've been subjected to a blow-by-blow account of the latest great detail in MGS2. "Look how the rain splashes off his body," Konami Boy enthused. "And you can hide in lockers! Look, you can shoot melons," he gasped breathlessly.

Yeah, great, can we do something interesting now? Everywhere we went, we had games retailers and various industry types asking him about the latest on MGS2 – yawn! So, as you can tell, I'm jaded by the hype. I accept that it's a good game, but I don't like it. It is possible to not like MGS, so let's get some perspective people.

Let it never be said that I'll turn down the opportunity to attend a free party though, so I did trot along to the MGS2 launch party. A fine affair it was too, with much booze to be had and entertainment from fire-eaters, girls on stilts and Brazilian dancers. Kojima san was present. It's official, he is mortal, and not the godlike creature the cowering fans allege! I know because a mate saw him at the snack van, enjoying a burger with the rest of us average Joes.

As usual, Europe is the last to get anything. Now Solid Snake has finally arrived, so hopefully everyone can pipe down about it. Until MGS3, of course – oh, be still my beating heart.

Last week the UK went green at the gills, as Xbox fever took hold. March 14th was billed as Xmas day and I bought myself an Xmas present. I'll give you a clue – it's big, black and extremely heavy. Joy of joys, it's an awesome gaming machine!

I, however didn't have to deal with all that tawdry retail outlet and pre-order malarkey. Thanks to Konami Boy, my Xbox was waiting for me at home. Thank you Konami Boy, your fight for truth, justice and quality gaming time prevails once again.

Thanks to some inconsiderate friends having their birthday celebrations on Xbox weekend, the unveiling for me was delayed. There was booze involved, so it wasn't all bad. The first chance I got, I hauled the thing out of its box with clammy, trembling hands. I have to say, I'm impressed. And that's something I never thought I'd say after dedicating last summer to poo-poo Microsoft's doomed attempt to invade the console arena.

The tales of a huge, monstrous black beast were exaggerated. Yes, it is bigger, but not out of place next to a DVD player. I find it satisfyingly bulky and at least it doesn't look like it's fallen off something out of the 80s – step forward PS2 (bless its little black plastic socks.)

Then I played Halo and now I've gone from impressed to obsessed. The working day can't go fast enough. I now know my true calling is wielding huge weapons and kicking serious alien arse in an attempt to save the world.

Everything in Halo looks gorgeous. I love spilling luminous alien blood and crouching behind truly 3D bushes. The mid-battle shouts and calls from the team immerse me in my fantasy world of heroic fracas.

It's early days for Xbox yet, so I'm reserving judgment, but I'm hoping it takes off because I've forked out and want loads of games to play on it. And I'm keeping my fingers crossed because it will be good for the industry and more importantly, gamers in general if it is popular.

Call me picky, but apart from Halo the launch releases haven't inspired me. DOA3 looks good, plays better, but isn't really my thing. Ditto Rallisprint. Give me Colin McRae 3.0 on the PC anytime. Amped is just another snowboarding game. Yawnsville. And the list goes on. There are a couple things in the pipeline that I'm looking forward to, but for now I'm content with Halo, a world devoid of mullets and bandanas. Hooray for Xbox, my escape from planet Solid Snake.

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