Will Robbie Keane be L.A’s Galactic Mistake?

Robbie Keane has the ability to be a prolific striker. With the MLS ever changing and evolving into a very entertaining league, a character of his stature and goal scoring ability should light up the west coast and completely kick start his career.

There is no doubting this, his 91 goals in 238 games for Tottenham is a record any striker would like. Something that Leicester City would have loved to have cashed in on (and they still might if the transfer didn’t go through before 5am). But L.A. Galaxy might have stretched themselves a little too far.

Wages rules in the MLS is as protracted as most American sports are with a salary cap. They can however nominate up to three players who have high earning wages. These are known as the “designated players”. No guesses who L.A. Galaxy’s three designated players are. David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Juan Pablo Angel. Angel seems to be the one player everyone thinks will go. He came in during the 2011 Draft to Galaxy after NY Red Bulls decided not to renew his contract and Philadelphia Union look set to get him.

But the transfer deadline in the U.S. has now passed. So no one can go. Landon Donovan is forever being linked with a return to the Premier League, although I seriously doubt he would go on anything but a loan deal. Then there is David Beckham, considering his future at the club and within football. He will always be a brilliant player but his fitness is concerning him after the Achilles injury last year and this season has looked, at times, uncomfortable.

You would think that part of the cherry for Keane going, other than the money and hollywood lifestyle, has to be Beckham’s awesome delivery. Keane needs all the help he can get with being set up for goals, as his stint at Liverpool and West Ham proved that he is not an effective lone striker, and with Beckham gone? Who’s going to do it?

Watching Galaxy can sometimes be a bit like watching England. Brilliant yet agonising. We all hope that Robbie Keane can find a team, play games, and get back to his best. No one wants to see the loveable Irishman crash and burn. But unless he gets the service, I fear his time at Galaxy could be more American Beauty than American Dream.

Coma… Zombies… Run! The Walking Dead Series One.

So I have just watched series one of The Walking Dead. I must confess that I haven’t read the comic books so whatever thoughts I have about this stem directly from the series.

What do I think about it? I thought it was good. It was some fun entertainment but it does have a lot of problems (possibly teething problems) that need to be addressed in series two. Although having a longer run of episodes might help that.

My first problem is the whole coma thing. A guy wakes up from a coma and the world has gone to shit and the streets are deserted. It’s completely 28 Days Later in that respect, but in all honesty there probably isn’t a better way to drop a character or the audience into that situation. Nothing new but it is tried and tested.

Problem number 2. Wooden characters. I know that these characters may be in the comic books. But the definition of good and evil stretches quite easily in comics. While a guy can be an arrogant redneck racist (Merle) in a comic and get his just desserts, on television the character just comes across as stale and out of date. The Jim character is basically introduced to be killed. The whole grave digging and sunstroke angle is designed for you to feel empathy for him when he gets bitten. But he’s not needed other than to show dwindling numbers in the group. I’m surprised that the character wasn’t cut when they trimmed the fat, so to speak.  Again this goes for the guy who hits his wife and gets beaten up. His only purpose is to show how unstable Shane is becoming with Rick’s reappearance. Even Shane’s actions when he attacks Lori are pretty poor. It’s meant to aid the tension that will build between the two but instead of making you hate the character, you kind of hate the show for making the character do that. I may be spoilt though, when you see some of the characters (and actors) that are really multi dimensional from other current shows such as John Luther (Idris Elba) from Luther,  Tyrion Lannister (Peter Drinklage) from Game of Thrones and Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi) from Broadwalk Empire.

However, I’m not all about the negative. There are several things that are really good about the show (which is probably why the lower points annoy me so much). The first episode with its feature on Morgan and Duane Jones is brilliant. The whole scene where he’s crying, shooting Walkers from the window after putting a picture of his wife up is absolutely beautifully acted and written. Genuine humanity there. Also, the character of Dale. In the last episode after Andrea decides to stay, his choice to stay is well acted. You can see how much of a betrayal he considers it that she would be so selfish as to rob others of her life. The entire last episode, where you finally get some answers, is very well done and you get a sense of the show progressing beyond the characters basic survival into something greater, as well as Noah Emmerich’s great guest starring role. By the way, I score huge geek points for getting the reference to the Wildfire complex*. Finally, the series itself is wonderfully shot, beautifully constructed and the make up is incredible. There is always a certain foregone conclusion when it comes to zombie movies that they are either comical or scary. This thankfully does neither and is all the better for it. The Walkers themselves are a nice combo between your run of the mill ‘zombie’ and the super fast terrifying ‘zombies’ of 28 Days Later and I Am Legend.

All of this does make me want to carry on into the second season. Now that the camp is unsettled, more knowledgeable and on the run, it does lead the show into some potentially great territory. Let’s hope it carries it forward and leaves some of the poor characterisation behind.

*Wildfire is the name of the top secret underground laboratory in Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain. Originally designed for chemical warfare experimentation, it was used to try and find a cure for the spreading Andromeda epidemic.

It’s a trap! (A Tiny Tower trap!)

Tiny Tower for the iPhone. Addictive… No. Needy… Yes.

It’s like a Tamogotchi, except you can’t needlessly mistreat it. I may have to delete it soon, but I feel strangely compelled to find out what stores I will get if I carry on building. No way am I buying bucks for it though. Not even I can justify paying to get extras. The best bit about it, I find, is the “Bitbook” Facebook rip off where your tower dwellers say similar things about work all the time. But occasionally they branch out, as seen below (Nice one Victor Beck).

In other news, today I will try to 100% all of Lego Star Wars (I have to admit that Mass Effect, yet again, bored me). So my only condition is that I must play all the way through with Admiral Ackbar. Maybe he can give the other characters some warning as to impending doom.

It’s only natural, right?

What game to play? Hmm….

I have a choice of three games to play at the moment and I can’t decide which I want to play.

Choice 1) Lego Star Wars.

Having just completely completed Lego Harry Potter, I want to do the same to Lego Star Wars and especially unlock Admiral Ackbar. Mainly so I can laugh at myself for shouting “It’s a Trap!” in every confrontation. But I get the feeling that it’s far too much Lego for one man to endure.

Choice 2) Fallout 3

A game I’ve started and never really bothered to continue. My main reason? I forget what I’m doing and really despise being over encumbured. I have no idea what there is that is actually useful, so I keep what I can and sell it when I can. But I end up having to dump most of it. It infuriates me.

Choice 3) Mass Effect

I’ve started Mass Effect. My friend raves about it. In all likelihood, I should love this game. It’s Sci-Fi, big, immersive and has a great story. But for some reason I just cannot drum up any enthusiasm about it. It just bores me. It’s almost too big maybe? I can’t explain it. Everyone’s talking about Mass Effect 3 and getting excited. I still have Mass Effect 2 in it’s cellophane wrapper. I just can’t get any fun out of playing it. Maybe it’s just me.

I’ll give Mass Effect another go I think.

WELCOME ONE AND ALL!

Hi everyone.

This is my new website! Exciting huh? Well hopefully it will be a place where I will write and do stuff that amusing, intrigues and entertains you as well as keeping me occupied and being an official place for stuff about me with me in… Or something like that.

At least I hope so seeming I’m paying for the domain name.

So welcome to seancleaver.net. To start with, I’ve loaded some old stories and some Games writing pieces as well as links to my portfolio of published work and a showreel of my stuff so far. There’s more to come eventually too as well as, hopefully, a slightly tidier design.

So enjoy everyone, and I’ll upload more as it comes to me.

Sean

All I Wanted Was Born To Run!

Bruce Springsteen & The E Street Band live at Hyde Park, London is currently playing on my XBOX DVD player. I want to pick up my guitar, gather some friends and sing along with us all playing instruments. They can’t play them? Oh well let’s just stick on Rock Band and pretend to play them… What do you mean there’s no Boss on the game? Philistines! Why not? He’s one of the best songwriters of our time!

Ok then, I’ll play some Dylan… HE’S NOT ON THERE EITHER?? What about Bowie? Oh only a few, and not even his best. Ok what about some greats like The Beatles or Metallica? Oh I have to buy SEPARATE games for that. Can’t I just put all the songs into one manageable easy game like the library transfer Rock Band has? No? Ahh… So what’s on Rock Band 3 then? Oh. That. Really? That too? Well, that’s a bit naff really isn’t it?

Basically, rhythm games have managed to convert me into entire boredom. I was a great defender of them, especially Rock Band. The tracking was better for me and the expansion capabilities were fantastic. Even as someone who can actually play musical instruments, I found the genre enchanting and a great escape from the pursuit of original rock stardom. I didn’t even mind the Guitar Hero series doing one off additions as it made bigger scope for a better soundtrack. Metallica being the prime example of how well it could be done, although I also quite liked Aerosmith’s addition. Anyone else remember IBM’s Quest For Fame on the PC? Tennis Racket and special controller with awesome tunes? It was a hoot!

But Guitar Hero changed after World Tour. It became too full of itself, and the controversy surrounding the usage of Kurt Cobain’s image was enough to send my liberal meter sky high and turn away from the franchise. Rock Band expanded brilliantly, capturing some of my favourite bands and songs. Pearl Jam, Nirvana, Rush and No Doubt for example.

Then Activision had to ruin it all by making everything they could into a game. DJ Hero. Band Hero. Recorder Hero, where you blew into the Wii remote to play along. Maracas Hero, where you got two 6-axis controller pads and threw them around violently to a virtual flamenco on screen in the style of Strictly Come Dancing. Then you got Bez Hero for the Kinect where you get as smashed as you could and danced incoherently to nothing but bright blinding lights whilst popping virtual pills using the RT trigger.

Ok so I exaggerate a little, but you can’t say that you don’t believe something similar may have crossed the minds of the developers. Roughly translated to “how far can we drag this out and make some $ before people get utterly bored?” It seems that only another two years was the answer to that question. Which for me is a shame. Now I’ll have to go to a pub and sing along to a badly constructed karaoke backing track to get my music kicks. All I wanted was Born To Run! (Cries into pillow)

The Halo Franchise Is In Safe Hands

The time has finally come where officially the real forerunners of the franchise fire their great Halo and let life start off from scratch. Bungie have handed over to the Microsoft run 343 Industries. Fear immediately fills the mind of naff sequels, pointless plots, substandard gameplay and terrible cash-ins. Fans of the Halo games should have every right to fear…

Or should they? Put simply, no. Halo is in safe hands, and if the recent behind-the-scenes video of the Defiant Map Pack for Halo Reach is anything to go by, it might actually be pretty prosperous. The problem being is that this now huge intellectual property, or IP if you will, is as much of a money earner as other franchises like Call Of Duty. However, it is not Call Of Duty. One of the things that Bungie have done, along in tandem with Microsoft Game Studios, is keep the plot and the story cannon rigid and consistent. When the original Halo game was released a trilogy of books was also released. The Fall Of Reach, The Flood and First Strike. The basis of the first book served to inspire not only the latest game but also the entire back-story of our hero John 117. Then you have the iconic Red vs. Blue series, many more books, toys, figurines, comics, cartoons and soon to be movies.

What I’m trying to get at here is that Halo has been a franchise of not just games, but story, merchandise and all round engrossing sci-fi fan wielding property for nearly ten years. Ever since the first game hit our shelves, xbox’s and PC’s. The plot and story of Halo will certainly survive and be frankly as encapsulating as ever. For the gamer however, you may feel the game may change or lose its “Pick Up And Play” accessibility. I however don’t think that much will change. Of course the engine will be updated or even totally changed, but fans will accept and wait for that as long as the end product is beautiful to look at, smooth to play and enjoyable to experience.

The people at 343 Industries have been involved for a while now. As far back as Halo Wars. Halo Waypoint, Halo Legends and even Halo 3 ODST have had some involvement with the company. Many of them are ex-Bungie staff. Let’s be honest here as well, most of them are probably fans of the series. They certainly won’t knowingly turn their gleaming multi-million dollar IP into a steaming pile of pavement chocolate, and as a quote I read earlier in the week says “no one ever sets out to make a bad TV show.” The same can be said for games.

I do have some worries of course; it wouldn’t be natural if I didn’t. Halo Wars needs to improve. The story wasn’t as good as it could have been but the idea was sound and the game was fun to play. As Halo Wars 2 is already very much in progress, we can only hope these lessons are already learned. Halo and maybe Halo 2 could and should get a HD re-master. The PS3 is currently doing the same to the Tomb Raider franchise and an up rated Halo re-release would definitely sell well and be very welcome. I fear for the soundtrack to the franchise. Halo Wars Stephen Rippy did well in places but he is no Marty O’ Donnell. I hope whoever gets the music will do the franchise justice as it’s one of the things that definitely makes the games.

Of course time will tell. But I firmly believe this beloved franchise, held dear by many including myself, will survive and survive well. Bungie have instilled a community of Halo gamers and fans. These fans will talk and talk. They will be the life and death of Halo. Bungie always listened to them and 343 Industries look like they will too. Besides, Microsoft is not the kind of company who release a yearly game to make money. The Fable and Forza series come out when they are ready. They certainly won’t publish a series to death like… Say… Activision… Oh dear Bungie… All the best!

Football Games Before FIFA

So I’ve spent a lot of time over the past few months playing FIFA 11 for the XBOX 360 (I just can’t get on with the pads for the PS3). I even had a 4-3 Liverpool Vs Newcastle thriller online with a friend. This great score line prompted some nostalgia for me. Like the old premier league games with the same teams and score line. But my nostalgia wasn’t for the football itself, it was for the games. I can trace back from FIFA 11 to the first Pro Evo released for the next gen consoles, Pro Evo 6. A downright poor attempt overall but great online play. I then went back to the PS2 days of Pro Evo 4 & 5. Still these are my favourite football games of the modern era. Many a night was wasted in the company of friends having tournaments with fast food and the trading of toy wrestling championship belts for whoever came out on top.

But this wasn’t where I was to look. I casted my mind back right to the beginning of the FIFA franchise. The imaginatively titled FIFA International Soccer on the Sega Mega Drive (Genesis). Now unless you’re my age or slightly older, or you’ve played the emulation on FIFA 06 on the PS2, you’d have never have know that there were only three real football games before this (not including Sensible Soccer as A) it was a brilliant albeit joke game and B) it called football soccer… BOO). World Cup Italia ’90 (which came with most console bundles with Super Monaco GP and Columns) was the first football game of the 16-bit generation. This top down view game looked like it had come straight out of the arcade. Whilst I still had Nessun Dorma running through my head, a bunch of half false named ball-like-heads with little feet kicked a ball around in something akin to a virtual Subbuteo. Of course the problem with this game is it was incredibly hard to play. You selected your team from a badly drawn map, selected your players from screens more reminiscent of a Spectrum and then were greeted with a game that made it impossible to keep possession unless you passed it continuously. Only to be backed up with odd matte painted screens for goal kicks.

Next on my list, although not next on the timeline, was World Cup USA ‘94. This game had learned nothing of its other licensed predecessors mistakes. Incomprehensible baseball card like menu screens followed another badly drawn globe map for team selection, followed by even more incomprehensible baseball card screens. All of which included the pointless dog mascot. I don’t know why they didn’t put cheerleaders in and have done with it. But it’s game play, although fairly terrible and again plagued with fake names, did take its lessons from Sensible Soccer. The top down view was zoomed out further and the grass was a much brighter green… And that’s where my praises end. It was terrible. Awful. Nay a disgusting excuse for portrayal of the beautiful game. In fairness this game was totally dwarfed by the equally licensed, but again faked named, FIFA International Soccer… Enough said. Except that England were on that FIFA game and not on USA ’94. If you don’t know why, then you should ask your parents or older siblings why 2010’s England World Cup flops were not a huge surprise.

But until FIFA took over my console life, and Premier Manager took over my PC life, there was only one football game for me. A game where a kid famously asked Sir Patrick Moore’s Gamesmaster on TV how he could get more power into his kicks. I’m speaking of course of European Club Soccer. That’s right. Club. Not country. Before FIFA ’95, this game showcased the best clubs in all of the motherlands of modern Football. It was incredibly hard to score on. But it had club teams that Pro Evo now could only dream of. It had a side view so you could see the whole of the players nicely animated, perfectly formed, and more of the pitch without needing a radar. You had fake names still but close enough so that you knew who they were. You had kits that looked like the actual kits. Badges that looked like the actual team badges and a referee on the pitch. Something that only recently has come into modern Football games. This ref would even show cards to you on the pitch. The soundtrack was great and because of its difficulty, it was oh so rewarding when you actually won. I’m not sure that modern gamers will understand the stress of throwing your controller across the room and the lead coming out –making the game crashing and meaning you had to restart from the beginning and not the last save point- due to the difficulty and agonising stress the game caused. But believe me that this kind of stress made me into the man I am today. That being a bitter cynical football fan that knows how lucky you are to be born into a gaming platform of 3D realistically modelled, dynamically accurate football games.

Just remember that when you play modern football games that streaming down the flanks and belting a shot in from the corner of the box won’t guarantee you a goal anymore like it used to. You actually have to play football, and that is why you… I… Fail.